Options in the Power Sector

President’s target of shifting to renewable energy -some options available


By Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri
(continued from yesterday)

Hydropower plants: The existing major hydropower capacity is 1,400 MW generating around 5,000 GWh of energy annually depending on the annual rain fall (SD 2018). A few hydropower plants are under construction and a few more planned to increase the capacity by 226 MW generating additional 620 GWh of energy annually by 2030, according to CEB publications. Enhancing the output of some of the large hydro power plants such as Victoria and Kotmale by raising their capacity is under consideration. In addition, it is possible to add about 520 GWh of energy by building a new reservoir on Kotmale Oya below St. Clair’s waterfall and linking it to the existing shaft of the Upper Kotmale Power Plant enabling it to operate during the day at a higher plant factor rather than only as a peaking plant as done now. This proposal was made during the planning stage of Upper Kotmale project but not pursued. This is a better option than linking a reservoir built across Pundalu Oya to the system as proposed by CEB in its 2020-39 Plan. The total energy available from these major hydro power plants by 2030 will be about 6,140 GWh according to CEB estimates. This is equivalent to 61.66 PJ according to SLSEA formula. These are summarized in Table 5.

Thermal power plants: The capacity of present oil-operated thermal power plants is 1,137 MW generating 3,630 GWh (36.4 PJ) in 2018, while the coal fired thermal power plant with 900 MW capacity generated 4,764 GWh (47.8 PJ) (CEB’s Statistical Digest 2018). The Cabinet at its meeting on 22.01.2020 granted approval for building two 300MW coal power plants at Norochcholai and a 300 MW natural gas power plant at Kerawalapitiya as a joint venture between CEB and India/Japan.

In the meantime, the Minister of Power and Energy was reported by The Sunday Island of 16.02.2020 as having said that the "Ministry would go ahead with plans to build a new 300MW LNG plant at K’pitya by Wind Force Consortium, a 300MW LNG plant at K’pitiya by Lakdanavi, 300 MW LNG plant at K’pitiya with India, 300 MW LNG plant at K’pitiya with Japan, 300 (400) MW LNG plant at Hambantota with China, 300 MW Coal power plant at Norochcholai and 300 MW additional coal plant at Norochcholai and 600 MW Coal power plant at Trincomalee".

It is anticipated that all these power plants will be in operation by 2030. Some of the old thermal power plants will get retired by 2030 leaving only 400 MW out of the 1,137 MW available at present. It is also envisaged that the existing 900 MW coal power plant will also get retired by 2030, in view of its poor performance. A summary of these thermal power plants and their contribution to national energy scenario is shown in Table 6.

The plant outputs for the proposed power plants were worked out assuming 80% plant factor for all power plants, 40% efficiency for coal power plants and 55% efficiency for natural gas power plants. The contribution of thermal power plants to the overall energy scenario expressed in PJ is computed on the basis of heat content of the fuel consumed annually by each power plant rather than the electricity generated as in the case of hydropower plants. CEB’s LTGE Plan for 2020-39 makes provision for adding 5 of 300 MW NG power plants and 4 of 300 MW coal power plants into the system by 2030.

Other renewable energy (ORE) sources: The CEB’s SD 2018, has reported that there were 394 MW of mini-hydro systems generating 1,232 GWh of energy and 217 MW of other RE sources such wind turbines, solar PV systems and dendro power plants generating 600 GWh of energy in 2018. The CEB has made provision for adding a series of OREs, including 176 MW of mini-hydro, 920 MW of solar, 555 MW of wind and 55 MW of dendro systems by 2030, in its LTGE Plan during 2020-39. The SEASL has also prepared a plan for developing ORE systems up to 2025, which included 135 MW of mii-hydro, 1,564 MW of solar, 805 MW of wind and 56 MW of dendro systems. There does not appear to be compatibility between plans prepared by these two government authorities.

In the meantime, an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) made a set of recommendations to the Cabinet last year to install in the short term a several utility scale solar PV systems, wind energy systems and biomass energy systems, and these are also sown in Tables 7 and 8. Some of these are also included in the President’s manifesto and approved by the Cabinet in 2017.

The solar power projects recommended by the IMC comprises three large utility scale projects at Pooeneryne (300 MW) and two sets at Syambalanduwa (2x100 MW) along with 300,000 roof top systems providing 300 MW and several small-scale systems each below 10 MW adding to 500 MW in places of high solar insolation. The building of a floating solar PV system was previously approved by the Cabinet and Canadian assistance was sought for it. These plants are assumed to have plant factors of 20% considering the fact that 12 hours of solar incidence with diurnal variation is equivalent to 5 hours of full sun shine. The GWh generated is converted into Giga-Joules using SLSEA formula. Their details are shown in Table 8, according to which a total capacity of 1,400 MW is to be installed generating about 2,450 GWh or 25 PJ annually.

The CEB has already initiated the development of several wind energy farms at Mannar and in the Jaffna district. Their details are shown in Table 8, according to which a total capacity of 650 MW is to be developed generating nearly 2,000 GWh of electricity equivalent to 20 PJ annually. It is to be noted that capacities of ORE given in the CEB and SLSEA projections are quite different to the proposed capacities submitted to the Cabinet for short term implementation while CEB’s projections are up to 2030 and SLSEA projections are up to 2025.

According to an SLSEA Report dated 27.03.2019, several ORE projects submitted by investors that have received the approval of the SLSEA since 2016 have been held up as CEB has not agreed to sign power purchase agreements with them, citing a section of the Electricity Act. These pending RE projects are shown in Table 9.

According to CEB, only projects submitted in response to call for proposals could be accepted and not unsolicited proposals. Actually, CEB should be happy that investors are willing to build 3,000 MW of capacity at their own cost and supply about 7,200 GWh power to the grid when CEB is short of supply. CEB should in fact encourage such investments instead of blocking them. The Ministry should take prompt action to get the thorny clause removed from the Act.

Summary of ORE Projects

As described in the foregoing, ORE projects have been proposed in the CEB and SLSEA Projections, Ministry of Power and Energy as proposed to the Cabinet and the proposals pending acceptance by the CEB. The ORE scenario during 2030 resulting from these projections and proposals is shown in Table 10, based on the data given in previous Tables.

Power sector scenario as at 2030

Table 5 gives the present and committed hydro power plants that will be commissioned during the current decade with a total capacity of 1,786 MW generating 6,140 GWh of energy in 2030. Table 6 gives the existing thermal power plants that will continue to operate till 2030, after retiring old plants including the 900 MW coal power plant, and the proposed coal and natural gas power plants, giving a total capacity of 3,200 MW generating 18,825 GWh of energy. The ORE projects pending approval and those proposed add up to 2,655 MW of capacity generating 12,976 GWh of energy in 2030. These power plants will generate 37,941 GWh of energy in 2030, out of which renewables will comprise only 50%.

However, according to the demand projections made in the LTGE Plan of 2020-39, the demand in 2030 will be only 28,573 GWh. This means that the proposed capacity building in hydro, thermal and other renewables will generate 33% more electricity than the projected demand in 2030. Such a surplus capacity is desirable to accommodate any decline of hydro component that may arise during long periods of draught.

Mitigation options in other sectors

The projections of fossil fuel demand in various sectors under BAU scenarios by 2030 are shown in Table 4. These data along with data on demand for biomass and renewable sources in the power sector as worked out earlier are shown in Table 11.

The contribution from RE sources including biomass, major hydro and other RE systems will be 376 PJ whereas the total will be 891 PJ, making the share of RE to be about 42%, which is under BAU scenario. Several options for shifting the fuel for transport from fossil fuels to RE systems were described earlier and some of these are already being used in other countries. Some of these options are:

Drop the proposed four coal power plants and that will reduce the coal share by 75 PJ leaving only 86 PJ from fossil fuels for the power sector in 2030 (See Table 6). This will reduce the total generation to about 29,500 GWh, which is sufficient meet the demand estimated by CEB.

For use in the transport sector, grow energy plantations at district basis to produce DME which could be used in diesel vehicles, equivalent to 120 PJ.

Generate hydrogen from ORE sources as well as electricity from PV systems connected to the grid and use them for operating vehicles consuming equivalent of 120 PJ. This will leave only 60 PJ to be met from oil for transport.

Increase the biomass share through DME in industries by 7 PJ leaving only 10 PJ to be met from oil in industries.

Increase the biomass share through DME in HH&Com sector by 17 PJ leaving only 20 PJ to be met from LPG.

The above measures will make the RE share in all sectors to be 715 PJ out of a total of 891 PJ as shown in Table 12, making RE share 80%, meeting the President’s targets for RE penetration in overall energy scenario by 2030. Space limitation does not permit detailed description of these conversions. It is to be noted that data given herein are not precise as the inputs are not known accurately.

Realization of President’s RE targets

Local resources as well as technologies are available today for shifting to RE up to 80% in all sectors by 2030. Since shifting to RE from fossil fuels will avoid emission of carbon dioxide, international financing is available for implementing the proposed measures. However, detailed proposals will have to be submitted for seeking such assistance which is in the hands of relevant officials. The writer strongly believes that the proposed measures are achievable if the authorities concerned decide to give priority for implementing RE sources rather than continue with fossil fuels citing various excuses, which the President should take note of.

Since the President has said, "We will remove all impediments and incentivize the private sector and entrepreneurs interested in setting up renewable energy projects i.e. solar and wind, and to this end, the government will provide assistance" in his manifesto, it is expected that the relevant authorities will give serious consideration to the above proposals and make a genuine effort to get them realized by 2030, thus achieving the President’s targets for moving into renewable energy sources. The writer believes that once the political will is established, the rest will follow.


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