Green Energy Champion Sri Lanka (GEC) 2017 is taking place for the second consecutive year and after the success of last year’s input, there is optimism that has been placed towards the ideal of achieving even more interest and awareness from the public in this regard.
The competition is funded by the Federal German Foreign Office and implemented through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in collaboration with the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry and Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority.
German Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Jörn Rohdesat sat down for an interview and provided insight into the significance of the GEC competition.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Green Energy Champion 2017 is already taking place for the second time in Sri Lanka and the closing date for the entries was August 18. What are the reasons for the implementation of a project of this calibre once again this year?
I participated in last year’s award ceremony. I believe that it is very important to initiate competitions on this subject matter and we see this as a common effort between Germany and Sri Lanka where the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry and Sri Lankan Sustainable Energy Authority come together and partner with GIZ and German Embassy. We have witnessed the media campaign reach out to four million people in the country since the inaugural event was launched in 2016, which also helped promote responsible energy use and had brought along awareness with regards to technical solutions for renewable energy as a result.
GIZ had recorded over 21,000 Facebook followers and seven animation videos that were uploaded and followed, focusing on the subject of topics such as renewable energy and energy efficiency. All of this have been produced and are available off-screen and on YouTube. Last year, there were 80 applications that had come through and Ananda College won the competition. President Maithripala Sirisena was present at the awards ceremony, which was also graced by the Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya among other dignitaries.
It was an event which really produced concrete change on the ground. Ananda College’s entry, which won the competition, proved how significant it was as it helped power the entire school hostel need. Their approach was presented as a solution towards achieving energy efficiency and this was fully implemented in the same year.
A PV-system was installed and this helped generate over 24,000 kilowatts/hours annually whilst also extending the school’s existing compost system and also introduced a waste management system and providing equipment for the biogas plant. One can imagine what a huge cost this would otherwise have incurred and now there would be an immense saving for the school’s budget. So, this is also something as useful as embracing best practices and we hope to continue with that.
With last year’s reported success and with the presence of the president himself, who witnessed the event unfold with the awards ceremony, what can we expect this year round and how different will this be from last year?
We expressed hope and confidence to the president as well and highlighted on the success of the first round and we look forward to see who will become this year’s Green Energy Champion. We see this as a very positive competition when you have already gained something like 80 entries in the inaugural competition.
What is important to also notice is that the project’s website, www.greenenergychampion.lk has been revamped and provides an overview about the whole initiative where it explains the idea behind this concept and also serves as a source of information.
In order to support interested candidates in preparing their applications for entry GIZ had been working alongside a non-profit organisation, ‘Janathakshan’, which conducted workshops in all the provinces. Those workshops helped to raise interest in the competition throughout the country.
At this point I am very happy to announce that in the second round of the competition we received exactly 80 applications from schools, private companies, public institutions and individuals.
So, after the submitted proposals are screened, selected candidates will be invited to a workshop in Colombo, where they will receive further input on project management and training and how to present their ideas. At the end of the workshop, the candidates would have fine-tuned their proposals and presented them to a Jury consisting of representatives from the German Embassy, GIZ, the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry and Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority. So, even if only one winner is selected in the end for the year 2017, the other candidates would be prepared with the ability to resolve energy issues by themselves.
Currently, we have noticed immense levels of attention on the subject of renewable energy within Sri Lanka. Public buildings are required to use renewable energy sources. The private sector is also very active in improving energy efficiency. Are there further options on how Germany could assist Sri Lanka in achieving these objectives?
In this regard, when we speak of an initiative such as this, we would be leveraging on bilateral cooperation. The Green Energy Champion does not simply come ahead as a platform to solve energy challenges but would offer an enlightening path to motivate all sectors of society to participate in such similar endeavours. The Sri Lankan government has adopted a clear aim to replace fossil energy sources such as diesel with renewable energy. Sunshine is available in its abundance in Sri Lanka. Wind is also sufficiently available here and when you see the German example and what we have achieved with limited sunshine, we have basically succeeded in changing our system.
In 2000, Germany produced about 6 percent of its electricity consumption from renewable energy. Last year, the figures were recorded as 32 percent and by 2025 this is anticipated to reach 45 percent. So, we call it an energy transition but it is also more of an energy revolution as well. By investing heavily in renewables it is not only about saving costs but it is also about contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions. Germany has ambitious aims, to achieve 40 percent carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 compared with the year 1990 and to achieve an 80 percent reduction by the year 2050.
If we come back to the factor of economic importance, the recent figures are in a way, quite dramatic. Only two years ago, when there were bids for tenders for solar, the tenders were given at (€) 9 cents per kilowatt hour. By the beginning of this year, the figures have come down to barely 5 cents so in two years, the competitive streak within the renewables sector has been clearly proven. It simply is all about economics and so, it makes sense to invest in it.
Currently in Germany, 360,000 people are employed in the renewable sector. About € 10 billion has been invested in 2016 with two thirds of this going into wind energy, between 10-15 percent dedicated to solar and to other energy sectors such as biomass, geothermal, etc. So, we keep moving ahead and that shows how much is being done in a country that isn’t abundant in natural advantages such as sunlight when compared with Sri Lanka, then this country can definitely do it and so we would aim to work together and support the government in their aim to achieve this.
We also want to provide opportunities for German businesses within these sectors to take part in Sri Lanka’s development. Because Germany has also heavily invested in the renewable sector, our technology is also top-notch because our regulations are very clear. So we regard this initiative as a success story and it well and truly contributes to make our planet cleaner and more sustainable and that is the whole point of competitions such as this.
What message would you have for this year’s candidates?
In my view, everyone who participates in this competition is a winner. It also shows that they invest their time and creativity in an idea which a whole society would benefit from. The support that this competition receives during the facilitation and awarding ceremony from the likes of the country’s president shows how influential this is with the presence of the highest office bearer.
Therefore, going green is the future and it should not only be limited to as a segment of official policy but it should be something that each and every one of us embraces and this project is an ideal way to implement and bring these statements forth into practice. So, I would like to emphasize to the candidates, that even if you don’t win, you win simply by participating and enhancing your capacities.
Whether the entrants are representing their schools or other institutions, they will garner for themselves ideas on how to save costs and create sources of renewable energy.