“Our focus is on achieving 70% renewable energy by 2023. This includes 25% from solar panels, 15% from wind power, and 10% from natural gas. However, transitioning the energy mix is a gradual process, requiring meticulous planning and execution. We aim to reach 60% renewable energy by 2026 and eliminate fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 2030.”
“Our electricity conservation efforts must improve as a nation. Efficient electricity usage can reduce the unit cost. Additionally, we are working to reduce generation costs, and I believe that by the next year, these efforts will result in reduced electricity bills for consumers.”
by Sirimantha Rathnasekara
The year 2023 commenced against the backdrop of multiple crises facing our nation. Long queues for oil and gas became a common sight, while daily power cuts lasting five to six hours plunged the country into an energy abyss. The non-availability of 24-hour electricity delivery proved a severe blow to the nation’s economy. However, today, the nation is making a remarkable recovery.
At the outset of the year, the prospect of uninterrupted 24-hour electricity supply was uncertain. Today, electricity flows seamlessly without any hitches, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Ceylon Electricity Board. This transformation is nothing short of commendable. The Ceylon Electricity Board, previously criticized heavily, now stands as a shining example of a public institution that doesn’t burden the country’s economy. This remarkable turnaround is praiseworthy, and the Electricity Board is surmounting its historical challenges. This success story is a result of collaborative efforts by the HE the President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister of Power and Energy Hon. Kanchana Wijesekara, Secretary to the Minister of Power & Energy, Chairman, CEB and the Board members and CEB. Notably, CEB’s General Manager Electrical Engineer Rohan Seneviratne played a pivotal role in systematically guiding his team toward a specific goal.
“In fact, 2023 was an extremely challenging year for us,” remarked General Manager Seneviratne. “Our primary challenge was to ensure round-the-clock electricity supply in a time when the nation’s economy was teetering on the brink. We had to overcome this challenge in a backdrop of fuel shortages necessary for electricity generation.”
Team work to success
Seneviratne attributed their success to teamwork and determination, stating, “We came together as a team – the President, the Minister, the Electricity Board, the Chairman, and my team. This collective effort has already achieved several milestones, with the primary victory being the provision of 24-hour electricity. We are committed to maintaining uninterrupted power supply, irrespective of the crises we may face. This is a significant relief for both the economy and the people, contributing to the nation’s revival.”
However, despite the restoration of continuous electricity supply, concerns about electricity bills linger. Seneviratne acknowledged these concerns but emphasized the importance of considering broader implications. He noted that subsidies provided by various governments in the past had plunged the Electricity Board into a severe financial crisis. The cost of producing electricity units was not being recovered from consumers, which jeopardized the institution’s sustainability.
Seneviratne stressed the economic principles that should govern an organization’s operation. “To sustain an institution, the income must match the expenses. It’s a simple economic theory, applicable to both public and private sectors. When government institutions suffer losses, the public ultimately bears the burden through increased taxes. While consumers may directly feel the impact of electricity bill increases, the public indirectly benefits from a stable economy.”
Discussing potential future electricity bill increases, Seneviratne explained: “According to government policy, electricity tariffs can change twice a year, on January 1st and July 1st. Any changes before these dates are subject to approval by the Public Utilities Commission. We are obligated to report our financial situation to them, and they determine tariff adjustments based on our submissions.”
He elaborated on past adjustments, stating, “In the July 1st tariff revision, we proposed a 3.15% reduction, but the Public Utilities Commission approved a 14.5% reduction. This presented us with certain challenges, but we implemented cost-saving measures.”
CEB’s commitment to renewable energy
Seneviratne also highlighted their commitment to renewable energy, in line with government policy. “Our focus is on achieving 70% renewable energy by 2023. This includes 25% from solar panels, 15% from wind power, and 10% from natural gas. However, transitioning the energy mix is a gradual process, requiring meticulous planning and execution. We aim to reach 60% renewable energy by 2026 and eliminate fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 2030.”
Seneviratne said that global energy trends also supported their emphasis on renewables. “Around the world, the electricity supply mix includes 38% coal, 20% natural gas, 10% nuclear power, and 26% renewables. In the previous year, we generated 50% of our electricity from renewable sources.”
Discussing upcoming projects, Seneviratne mentioned their efforts to connect Sri Lanka and India’s power grids, emphasizing the mutual benefits. He also highlighted the importance of modernizing the transmission system and the focus on minimizing distribution losses. “Our vision is to provide high-quality service to customers through digital transformation,” he said.
“In the pursuit of ensuring a continuous and reliable supply of electricity, we have implemented a system that may entail some inconveniences for the general public. However, this measure is imperative to sustain uninterrupted electricity provision 24 hours a day. Last year, the Electricity Board incurred a staggering loss of Rs. 167 billion. Thanks to the innovative strategies implemented by our team, we anticipate a significant reduction in these losses this year. We are currently settling all bills promptly and acquiring fuel from CPC through upfront payments, with no reliance on borrowed funds. Despite the myriad challenges faced, we successfully managed to import 30 coal shipments, all thanks to the efficiency of our system, affirming the strength of our organization.”
The General Manager has also emphasized our commitment to alleviating the burden of electricity bills on the public. He is firmly dedicated to realizing the government’s target of achieving 70% renewable electricity by 2030, serving as a stalwart leader in this endeavor. In a global scale, the electricity supply mix predominantly comprises 38% coal, 20% natural gas, 10% nuclear power, and 26% renewable energy, among others. The resolute focus of General Manager Seneviratne on renewable energy underscores our achievement of generating 50% of nation electricity requirement from renewable sources during 2022.
Government policy of achieving 70% renewable electricity
“Currently, we are diligently aligning with the government’s 2023 policy of achieving 70% renewable electricity, comprising 25% solar panels, 15% wind power, and 10% natural gas. However, transitioning the energy mix is a complex process that requires meticulous planning and execution. Our immediate target is to reach 60% renewable electricity by 2026, and we are actively working on introducing natural gas at the earliest opportunity. Our ultimate objective is to cease electricity generation from fossil fuels entirely by 2030.”
These statements from the General Manager offer a glimmer of hope in the nation’s electricity sector, and rightfully so. Under the astute leadership of General Manager Seneviratne, comprehensive plans have been devised to transform these aspirations into tangible accomplishments.
A significant portion, 85%, of the Electricity Board’s expenditures are attributed to electricity generation costs. Therefore, in order to witness a notable reduction in electricity bills for consumers, it is imperative to curtail these generation costs. Several factors have contributed to cost increases, including the rapid escalation of global coal prices at the outset of 2022, coupled with rising oil prices and a strengthening US dollar. However, we are now witnessing a decline in coal prices, offering the prospect of lower costs in the coming year. Furthermore, oil prices have moderated to some extent. The General Manager has shared the encouraging news that these developments will lead to reduced electricity generation costs, benefiting consumers in the coming year.
Integration of Uma Oya Hydro Power project to national grid
In approximately one month, the Uma Oya Hydro Power project will be integrated into the national electricity grid, with Moragolla Hydro Power Project expected to follow suit by the end of the next year. Additionally, we plan to acquire 150 MW of renewable electricity this year, all of which will contribute to a decrease in electricity generation costs by the following year. Wind and solar power are anticipated to play a pivotal role in the future energy mix. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that renewable energy alone cannot provide the necessary balance for the system. Therefore, the construction of more conventional power plants is required. The Sobadhanavi power plant in Kerawalapitiya, scheduled to commence operations on March 1st next year, will provide 212 megawatts of power. Initially, it will run on diesel for the first year, transitioning to natural gas thereafter. Furthermore, we plan to procure a 135 MW power plant in Kelanitissa and construct another 350 MW power plant in Kerawalapitiya by 2026. It is a journey that we are embarking upon collectively,” he said.
The General Manager has outlined a plan to generate electricity from natural gas, a resource currently unavailable to us. However, he has provided an insightful solution to this challenge. “In countries where natural gas is readily available, it is directly piped from underground reserves to power plants without the need for liquefaction. Unfortunately, this isn’t feasible for us due to the absence of natural gas deposits. Consequently, in countries with access to natural gas, it is converted into liquefied form by cooling it to minus 162 degrees Celsius, stored in ships, and then transported to our shores. Upon arrival, it is reconverted into a gaseous state before being supplied to power plants. While this method incurs additional costs compared to sourcing natural gas directly from the ground, it remains more cost-effective than generating electricity from diesel. Furthermore, it is essential to transition away from diesel-powered plants due to their substantial environmental impact. We will initially operate on diesel for a year before transitioning to natural gas, as it poses a significantly lower environmental risk. Therefore, expeditious adoption of natural gas is imperative for our energy future.”
Seneviratne concluded by encouraging electricity conservation and efficiency. “Our electricity conservation efforts must improve as a nation. Efficient electricity usage can reduce the unit cost. Additionally, we are working to reduce generation costs, and I believe that by the next year, these efforts will result in reduced electricity bills for consumers.”
Engineer Rohan Seneviratne, the General Manager of the Electricity Board, stands as a beacon of leadership and professionalism in steering the electricity sector toward a sustainable and renewable future. His vision and dedication have paved the way for a brighter and more energy-efficient Sri Lanka.
US delaying visa for Security Oversight Committee head
suggests someone else be appointed to that post
MP Weerasekera seeks Speaker’s intervention
by Shamindra Ferdinando
Controversy surrounds an alleged suggestion by the US that Parliament name a member from a minority community to represent the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on National Security, as incumbent Chairman of the committee Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera, MP, cannot be issued a visa in time for him to join a parliamentary delegation visiting Washington later next month.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) has, with USAID funding, organised a 10-day visit for Chairmen of all Oversight Committees. Nearly 20 Oversight Committees function in the current Parliament.
The Oversight Committees also receive the backing of the UNDP. The UN agency has pledged substantial funds for Parliament.
Responding to The Island queries Colombo District lawmaker Weerasekera said that he would write to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena in this regard tomorrow (25). “I sincerely hope the Speaker seeks a clarification from US Ambassador in Colombo Julie Chung.”
MP Weerasekera acknowledged that the US must have been irritated by his criticism of the US role in last year’s uprising that ousted democratically elected President whatever his shortcomings and lapses were.
The SLN veteran said that he had been informed of the US suggestion by a senior parliamentary official. “There should be a plausible explanation regarding their failure to issue me a visa,” the former Navy Chief of Staff said, pointing out that the visit was to commence in the third week of October.
Declaring that he had attended several US courses during his over 30-year career and had also visited the US as a parliamentarian, the former Public Security Minister emphasised that he didn’t have a special interest joining the delegation but the sponsor under any circumstances shouldn’t differentiate.
The US indicated its desire to drop the SLN veteran from the parliamentary delegation close on the heels of Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera concluding an official visit to the US. The Navy Chief attended the 25th International Sea Power Symposium held at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island from 19th to 22nd September 2023.
Having retired in late Oct 2006, Weerasekera successfully contested the Digamadulla electorate on the UPFA ticket. Weerasekera, who now represents the SLPP, was elected to the current Parliament from the Colombo District.
Weerasekera said that he expected Speaker Abeywardena to raise the issue with the US embassy in Colombo.Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and SLPP Colombo District MP Udaya Gammanpila recently told The Island that both the US and Australia denied him visas.
Fresh controversy over the denial of visa has erupted as a group of government parliamentarians accompanied President Ranil Wickremesinghe to attend the 78th UNGA in New York. The group consisted of Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Premanath C. Dolawatte (all of the SLPP) and Vadiwel Suresh of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB).
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa last week raised the MPs’ group visiting the US at taxpayers’ expense. Speaker Abeywardena chided lawmaker Premadasa by asking him to do the same when he became the President.
MP Weerasekera said that he intended to take up discriminatory practices of the US with the Foreign Ministry as well. The former minister said that Sri Lanka should examine the issue as in the absence of a clear response the country was being humiliated repeatedly.
Since Sri Lanka co-sponsored accountability resolution at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council in Oct. 2015, the US, Australia and Canada announced punitive measures against selected serving and retired officers, including Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who held the rank of Lt. Colonel at the time he retired in early 1990s soon after the eruption of Eelam War ii.
Canada also slapped travel restrictions on President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as Gotabaya Rajapaksa whereas the US imposed a travel ban on Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda in April this year. Karannagoda is on record as having said that he never applied for a US visa since leaving the Navy years ago.
US imposed travel ban on Chief of Defence Staff Shavendra Silva in Feb 2020, while Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka too was denied a visa during the yahapalana administration. Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera, one-time Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia was denied visa in early Dec 2021. The wartime Director of Operations, Perera, recipient of a degree from the US Army War College was denied entry to the US recently though he has a five-year multiple entry visa issued in August 2019.
State Minister’s claim that SIS infiltrated NTJ: Church seeks clarification
asks govt. to implement PCoI recommendations now
by Shamindra Ferdinando
In the wake of State Defence Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon’s declaration in Parliament that the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had successfully infiltrated the extremist group which carried out near simultaneous suicide attacks on 2019 Easter Sunday, the Catholic Church would like to know whether the Yahapalana government had been aware of the threat before receiving the Indian alert, Rev. Father Cyril Gamini Fernando said.
State Minister Tennakoon told the Parliament on Friday (22) that an intelligence officer, code-named ‘Sonic Sonic’, had infiltrated the group at the risk of his life to obtain vital intelligence.
The SIS is the country’s premier intelligence organisation though the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) is much larger. The government blamed the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) for the attacks which claimed the lives of 269 people, including 45 foreigners.
Rev. Fernando emphasised that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government owed an explanation as to how the defence establishment had failed to thwart the conspiracy in spite of having penetrated the group.
Pointing out that India thrice alerted Sri Lanka, beginning April 04, 2019, Rev. Fernando said that the lapses on the part of the defence establishment here should be reviewed taking into consideration the State Defence Minister’s claim.
Rev. Fernando said the two-day debate on national security and Easter Sunday attacks had proved how irresponsible and treacherous those who wielded political power could be and how political parties adopted a common strategy to deprive justice to terror victims.
The debate caused more confusion and turmoil than addressing the issues at hand, Rev. Fernando said, urging the government to reveal its stand on the recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on Easter Sunday attacks. “Actually, we got suspicious of the previous government’s intentions when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced a six-member group of MPs to examine the PCoI report,” Rev. Fernando said.
The committee headed by Chamal Rajapaksa included Johnston Fernando, Udaya Gammanpila, Ramesh Pathirana, Prasanna Ranatunga and Rohitha Abeygunawardena was appointed on Feb. 19, 2021
Rev. Fernando asked the government to disclose actions taken in respect of recommendations made by the PCoI. Supreme Court Justice Janak de Silva chaired the PCoI. The other members of the CoI were Court of Appeal Judge Bandula Karunaratne, retired Court of Appeal Judge Sunil Rajapaksa, retired High Court Judge Bandula Atapattu and retired Justice Ministry Secretary W M. M. R. Adikari. Justice de Silva handed over the report to the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Feb 01, 2021.
Asked to comment on former President Maithripala Sirisena’s call for UN intervention to initiate a fresh inquiry in the wake of Channel 4 allegations pertaining to Easter Sunday carnage, Rev. Fernando stressed that the urgent need was to implement the PCoI recommendations. The CoI recommendations couldn’t be discarded in the guise of fresh investigations, Rev. Fernando said, adding that the PCoI established by President Sirisena was endorsed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The National Catholic Committee for Justice to Easter Sunday Attack Victims, in a letter dated July 12, 2021, sought an explanation from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa why his government had delayed implementation of PCoI recommendations having spent a huge amount of taxpayers’ money on the critically important initiative.
Referring to their appeal on July 12, 2021, Rev. Fernando said that the PCoI recommended that the Attorney General consider initiating criminal proceedings against MP Sirisena under any suitable provision in the Penal Code. “We would like to know the status of the AG’s response,” the Church spokesperson said, pointing out that the PCoI asserted how the then Premier and incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s lax approach towards Islamic extremism facilitated the terror project.
Rev. Fernando said that the government couldn’t wish the CoI report to disappear as the public and the international community were aware of its contents though certain sections were still hidden in the guise of national security.
Rev. Fernando said that the PCoI had recommended criminal proceedings against retired DIG Sisira Mendis (Chief of National Intelligence) and Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena (Director, SIS) under any suitable provision in the Penal Code. Pointing out that Jayawardena over the years had reached the topmost position a senior DIG could achieve and was one of the contenders for the IGP post, Rev. Fernando said that the Parliament owed an explanation why an unsuccessful attempt was made to invite him to brief the MPs last week.
Rev. Fernando said that the PCoI made recommendations in respect of Senior DIG Nandana Munasinghe (now retired), DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon, SP Sanjeewa Bandara, SSP Chandana Atukorale, B.E.I. Prasanna, ASP Sisila Kumara, CI Sarath Kumarasinghe, CI Sagara Wilegoda et al.
The Church spokesperson noted that ex-Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and ex-IGP Pujith Jayasundara had been acquitted on Feb 18, 2022.
Rev. Fernando said that the people had a right to know the status of PCoI recommendation to the Public Service Commission (PSC) that it consider taking disciplinary action against State Counsel Malik Azeez and Deputy Solicitor General Azad Navavi for their lapses which facilitated the Easter Sunday carnage.
X-Press Pearl insurers make interim payment – Justice Minister
The insurers of the ‘X-Press Pearl’ ship, which sank off the western coast of Sri Lanka two years ago, had made an interim payment to the Sri Lankan government, Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told journalists on Sunday (24).
The payment would cover the cost incurred by the Maritime Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) for the beach clean-up operations and compensation for the fishermen affected by the maritime disaster, the Minister said.
Sri Lanka’s Treasury had received 890,000 US dollars and 16 million rupees (around 49,400 dollars) as the interim payment, the Minister said, adding that the second interim environmental assessment report compiled by the MEPA-convened expert committee had placed the environmental damage from the X-Press Pearl disaster at 6.4 billion dollars.
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