Connect with us


Clean energy without foreign exchange



[This article is dedicated to the late Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri who tirelessly worked hard to make the country move away from fossil fuels.]

According to a news report published in The Island (17 July 2021), the CEB Engineers Union had stated that the government’s target for increasing to 70% the electricity from renewable energy to the national grid is not practical. Apparently, even if it were practical, the CEB does not have computerised infrastructure for managing the variable switching-in and switching-out, needed for integrating “non-firm” energy sources like wind and solar into the grid.

The CEB can say, if we only had that “excess capacity” then blackouts wouldn’t happen! But this is irrelevant, given Dr. Siyambalapitiya’s admission (The Island 19-08-20) that “the system” cannot even handle a 0.5% power fluctuation from “unmonitored” sources like “solar and wind”.

Engineer S. Kumarawadu, the President of the CEB Engineers Union, claims that transmission lines have to be upgraded to meet targets. That should have been a part of the long-term plan anyway. One hopes that the CEB union is more reliable than the GMOA, where Dr. Padeniya has been making statements from cloud cuckooland itself (see

The views of the CEB Engineers Union are very relevant to the country’s energy planning. However, it also has gross vested interests. What the power sector in Sri Lanka does NOT have, is an independent Research and Development (R&D) arm, similar to the Tea Research Institute, Coconut Research Institute, etc., available for agriculture. It is the vital research done by the rice research institutes in developing high-yielding seeds that kept up with the population explosion and fed the country. They faced political bulls running amok in the agricultural china shop, advocating a return to traditional seeds, traditional manure, and the use of occult practices like “kem”, while advocating getting rid of “all chemicals”.

As they are not guided by an R&D arm, the engineer managers choose conventional turn-key solutions that they know of. The CEB is an “unthinking beast” that does not run research projects or pilot plants and patent new ideas. Its “Long Term Generation Planning” (LTGP) Branch makes a no-brainer expansion plan every year.

The CEB’s LTGP 2015-2034 is still excessively tied to fossil fuels. This is not surprising, as it does not have the capacity to integrate new technologies, or even run a proper simulation of its own system, its power failures and blackouts. It has gone to Canadian, European or Japanese organisations to do simulations that should have been “in house” jobs. Its “research” is at best a tender board tango done with wheeler-dealing politicians. The CEB ends up blaming politicians who canceled “well-laid” LTG plans, while the politicians blame an uncooperative “CEB mafia”!

Consider the claim (see The Island, 17th July) that supplying 70% of the needed power using renewable sources is not practical. This is contradicted by other information sourced to the CEB itself. A news report (23-12-2019, The Island) claimed that when there were heavy rains, 70% of the power needed came from hydroelectricity. Similarly, on 10th August 2020 the CEB reported that over 50% of the power came from hydro as there had been adequate rains.

Some 40 GWh is needed at present. Hydroelectricity provides about 20 GWh of this, while coal provides some 18 GWh. As mentioned above when there is sufficient rain, 70% of the needed electricity comes from hydro! That is, some 28 GWh can be harvested if the water levels are preserved over the two monsoons. So, this increased the the hydro-electric output by some 40%. This figure is consistent with high hydro-electric outputs in the rainy seasons.

When the reservoirs are full, the evaporation is also extreme. King Parakramabahu wanted to use every drop of water reaching the ocean but did not consider evaporation. In my writings during the past two decades, I have pointed out the need to stop the over 30-40% evaporation losses happening day and night, due to the wind and the prevailing heat. These worsen with global warming. During heavy rains the water spills over and gets wasted. Additional storage to save spill water by restructuring reservoir dams, and using locally made floats to cover parts of the surface to cut evaporation can boost the hydro-electricity output over 30-40%.

So far, just by protecting the water from evaporation and spillage, we gain perhaps a 30% boost in hydro-power without using any solar panels. Floats can be added WITHOUT foreign exchange. If solar panels and wind turbines are added around these reservoirs, even more energy is harvested. Do your own calculations to see what you get! For answers, see my earlier articles, e.g., The Island of 15.07.2020, or 31-08-20: Hence you don’t need any fossil fuel in the end.

Evaporation control will become extremely acute with increased global warming. Otherwise, even the 20GWh currently supplied by Hydro will dwindle down due to extended droughts. However, once the systems are set up to prevent evaporation, the gained 30-40% increase in hydroelectricity is produced by a gain in head water in the reservoir. NO STORAGE BATTERIES ARE NEEDED. This is “firm energy” and remains compatible with the utterly outdated grid stabilization schemes still used by the CEB.

So, preventing evaporation will rapidly increase the island’s power capacity by, say, 30% . Given some 22 major hydroelectric reservoirs with a surface area of about 1000 ha each, if 50% of the surface be covered using floats, 11,000 ha (110 sq km) are protected. It can be shown that the environmental impact is positive. The water quality is improved due to reduced algae growth. The annual hydro-power of about 6000 GWh will rise to 8000 GWh when evaporation is cut. This is the cheapest and cleanest possible electricity!

Typically, sunlight can annually produce about 100-200 GWh per sq. km (100 ha) under Sri Lanka’s conditions. If solar panels are also placed on the floaters deployed to cut evaporation, then 1000-2000 GWh per annum of solar energy can be harvested, with no hassle or delays in acquiring land rights. Any excess daytime energy can be saved by retaining the corresponding amount of hydro-head in the reservoirs, without sending the reservoir water down into the turbines. That is, solar electricity has been stored without batteries and converted to firm power!

Furthermore, evaporation shields, equipped with solar panels are a one-time capital investment, and there is no need for continued importation of LNG, coal or oil as envisaged in the conventional expansion plan of the CEB that takes no account of global warming. The type of costly infrastructure development needed for LNG is not needed for the simple approach of cutting down evaporation, as the first conservation step that will boost Sri Lanka’s clean power capacity. And yet, in the LTGP 2020-2039, the CEB has only paid lip service to government policy on fuel diversification by adding LNG-based generating capacity, whereas LNG is an expensive fossil fuel that should have been avoided! Why is LNG energy being falsely referred to as “clean energy” in CEB documents?

However, unconventional solutions should NOT be implemented without running pilot projects. Such projects must be run by a yet to be established Power Research Institute, which should have been established at least in the days of the accelerated Mahaweli project. A first floating solar project has been proposed near the Parliament, on the Diyawanna Lake. But this is largely a no-brainer as the Diyawanna lake is not connected to a turbine, and no gain in evaporation is achieved. No natural mechanism of energy storage, as saved water is available and one has to resort to batteries.

Some unconventional solutions that have been proposed (without any trials or pilot projects) include the use of urban garbage as an energy source, while ignoring the now well established biomass approaches that use fast-growing Giricidia or Castor to produce dendro energy. Several 10MW dendro plants already exist, and establishing 20 more within the next 2-3 years, to add 200MWs of capacity is straightforward.

Attempts to use urban garbage in settings similar to Sri Lanka, e.g., India, has led to failure in actual operations. Only a total of 138 MW has been installed in India by 2019 although its garbage output is massive. The extreme wetness of the garbage, inadequate separation of wet garbage from dry garbage, and the difficulties of plant operation for methane production, incineration and pyrolysis, and disposal of toxic ash have become serious problems. This is, in my view, an unsuitable approach for Sri Lanka, although suitable for a research and development (R&D) pilot project, since Colombo alone produces 2-5 thousand tons of urban garbage per day. Sri Lanka should develop dendro power while leaving “garbage to energy” conversion as an R&D project.



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


It’s the economy, again



There is a report in the Lankadeepa of 30 September, 2023 that thousands (‘dahas ganang’) of university graduates in biotechnology (and engineering technology) languish without employment. There is a comment that even if all of them were employed as teachers in state schools (in fact, there is no money to do so), the pool of unemployed graduates in biotechnology, which is filled yearly,

would not dry up; not dissimilarly (the reporter comments) from the fate of graduates in Arts. That graduates in biotechnology are unemployable in this economy as graduates in Arts are, validates a position that I have repeatedly brought up in these pages: university graduates and other young people are unemployed in this economy because this economy is arid and sterile and not because the education system, at whatever level, is fundamentally flawed.

The moment they land in a vigorously growing economy, they become the output of an excellent education system. Not that the education system (school and university) cannot be improved: Cambridge University has improved since 1215; Harvard University continues to improve since 1635. China (Mainland and Taiwan), Malaysia and many other economies did not await reforms in their education systems to grow rapidly as during the last several decades. It is a bit like the truism about savings and investment in the total economy: you don’t have to save to invest; if you invest savings will accommodate investment. It might be apt to say, ‘it is the economy stupid’.

The report in the Lankadipa highlighted that it was Dr. Bandula Gunawardhena, who, when he was the Minister of Education in 2012, with great enthusiasm, installed these branches of learning in schools and universities. And, he earned a Ph.D. degree in Economics!

Our erudite president of the republic, who goes around the world from one conference to another, preaching to the rest of the world, shows great enthusiasm about digitizing this economy. He is falling into the same trap as Dr. Gunewardhena fell into. You digitize a growing economy, not a moribund and bankrupt one.

It is the economy, again.


Continue Reading


Tribute to Dr. Nilanthi Cooray



I have known Dr. Nilanthi for more than 40 years since her marriage to my cousin Frank.Dr. Nilanthi was born in Moratuwa to a middle-class Catholic family. Her siblings include an older sister and a younger brother, and all three of them were studious. Her parents, especially her father. was a devout Catholic who was a frequent visitor to St. Sebastian’s church in Moratuwa.

Up to grade eight, Nilanthi attended Our Lady of Victories Convent in Moratuwa and then joined the Holy Family Convent in Bambalapitiya. She was accepted to the Medical College in 1972 after her successful results at the A-levels. She traveled daily from Moratuwa to the Medical college until such time she was able to get a place at the medical college hostel. During her final years at the medical college hostel, she succeeded in her studies and graduated as a doctor in 1976.

Her career began as an intern at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital Colombo for six months and another six months at the Castle Street Hospital, Borella working with leading qualified senior doctors. In 1977, she got married to her lifelong friend, Frank Cooray, who was working as a Technical Officer in the Irrigation Department. Her first appointment as a fully-fledged MBBS doctor was at the Narammala Base Hospital. Thereafter she got a transfer to the Lunawa Hospital.

After serving the required number of compulsory years (five or six years) she gave up the government job and started her own private practice. This decision seemed a calculated risk as at that time Moratuwa had enough and more reputed and recognized senior doctors such as Dr. Festus Fernando, Dr. Winston Perera, Dr. Cramer, Dr. Muthukumaru, Dr. Keerthisinghe, Dr. Guy de Silva and so on. However, within a short span of time, Nilanthi was able to establish herself as a remarkable young doctor and by the time the senior doctors retired or left Moratuwa, she had become one of the highly recognized doctors in Moratuwa with diagnostic excellence.

The demands of work and the up bringing of two little daughters made it difficult for Nilanthi to cope with everyday life. To support her, her husband gave up his job and went on voluntarily retirement after serving for 18 years at the Irrigation Department. He was just short of two years to qualify for the government pension.

In her prime of life Nilanthi was diagnosed for cancer. More time was spent in rest and prayers. Nilanthi and Frank would have prayed to God and all saints for a miracle healing. This was proved, when she went to Lourdes in France, a place known for Marian worship, to fulfill a vow, after receiving the good news from Dr. S. R. Jayatilleke, who was her oncologist, that her cancer has disappeared. This was the first thing she wanted to upon receiving the miracle healing. She got the green light from the doctor to fly. After her cancer Nilanthi slowed down in her practice and limited the number of patients per day.

Nilanthi was never interested in having a luxurious life or extra comforts like luxury cars or overseas holidays. Her life was centered around her family and her medical profession. She was a loving wife to her husband and devoted mother to her two daughters. As time passed, spending time with her four grandchildren brought her great happiness.

Only after her death that most of the people came to know about her charitable acts of kindness and in treating the poor without charging a fee. During her funeral service, a priest who gave the homily mentioned how students and staff of St. Sebastian’s College Moratuwa benefited by her treatment during their illnesses.

It was only a matter of telling her husband who was now attached to the staff at the College and he made arrangements for them to consult Dr. Nilanthi on a priority line. There was no difference between a priest, staff member, minor staff or a student (of course the student had to wear the uniform to identify their school), all were treated free of charge.

Attending the funeral service were several priests (including Bishop Anthony who was a past Rector of the College) and Christian brothers who served the college. I am certain that they came not only to pay their last respects but also to express their gratitude for taking care of them during their time of illnesses.

In the latter part of her life, her health deteriorated and with the help of her domestic aid, she had chosen a saree and a blouse for her final journey, which she did not disclose to her family members. However, when Frank came to know about it, he was upset and he had asked Nilanthi what this is all about. But she had not given any answer to that.

However, taking that opportunity she had given one more instruction to Frank, and that is after she is gone to give the gold chain round her neck to the domestic aid. For her final journey she was dressed with that particular saree and when everything was over the gold chain was given to the domestic aid.

She leaves so many special memories and a legacy of love. May her soul rest in peace.

-Ralph Gunawardena-

Continue Reading


Full implementation of 13A: Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state? – Part IV



By Kalyananda Tiranagama
Executive Director

Lawyers for Human Rights and Development

(Part III of this article appeared in The Island yesterday (28 Sept. 2023)

President Jayewardene stands up against Ranil Wickremesinghe

President J. R. Jayewardene, on the occasion of the Opening of Parliament on 20 Feb., 1986 said: ‘‘Permit me to speak on the government’s attempts since 1977 to seek a political solution to the problems arising in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

‘‘Our first attempt to do so was outlined in the UNP Election Manifesto of 1977. These proposals were prepared in consultation with some of the TULF MPs at that time. I have in my Address to Hon. Members on 23rd February 1984 outlined the steps taken to implement them as follows:

‘‘Since 1977 the government has made Tamil a National Language in the Constitution; amended rules governing entrance to universities and removed any racial bias governing those rules; removed the regulations prescribing racial considerations governing entry to the Public Services and promotion in the services.

‘‘District Councils have been created and District Ministers appointed. The TULF accepted them and worked for them for two years and contested elections. Last year they withdrew from them as sufficient powers and finance had not been allotted to them.

‘‘The search for a political solution was the profound concern of the government of SL. It was this commitment to reach a peaceful solution to the problem that led SL to take the unprecedented step on the part of any Sovereign State of sending her accredited representatives to explore the possibility of reaching a settlement at two Conferences held in Thimpu, Bhutan in August 1985 … arranged with the Tamil groups through the good offices of India.

‘‘However, neither the TULF nor the groups who attended these talks showed any serious inclination to discuss any of the proposals placed before them by the Govt. of SL. Their final response was an outright rejection of the government proposals and an invitation to the Govt. of SL to make new proposals that would accord with the so-called cardinal principles which they enunciated, which were no more than a re-statement of the demand for Eelam.

‘‘On 12th July 1985 the 6 Tamil groups made a statement of the ‘Four Principles’ on which they were working. On 13th August 1985 the leader of the SL Delegation, Dr. H.W. Jayewardene responded to it with a statement on the ‘Four Principles’ mentioned by the Tamil groups.

‘‘He dealt with the (i) recognition of the Tamils as a distinct nationality, (ii) a separate homeland and (iii) self-determination for the Tamils; and (iv) the linkage of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a reaffirmation of the demand for a separate state and could not be the subject of discussion and acceptance by the SL govt.

‘‘The SL delegation also submitted an outline of the structure of the sub-national units of a Participatory System of Governance on 16th August, but this too was not considered by the Tamil groups though it indicated areas on which discussion and agreement were possible.

‘‘The Accord reached in Thimpu and New Delhi were to be the basis of any future discussions. Such discussion would not reopen the Four Principles mentioned earlier in any form whatsoever. This was the basis of the understanding of both the Govts of India and Sri Lanka ….

There are certain principles which we cannot depart from arriving at a solution. We cannot barter away the unity of Sri Lanka, its democratic institutions, the right of every citizen in this country whatever his race, religion, or caste to consider the whole Island as his Homeland, enjoying equal rights, constitutionally, politically, socially, in education and employment are equally inviolable.”

“At present the Sri Lanka Tamils are in a minority in the Eastern Province while the Sinhalese and the Muslims together constitute nearly sixty per cent of the population. Since the Sri Lanka Tamils constitute more than ninety per cent of the population in the Northern Province, the object of the amalgamation of the North and the East is clear – the Sri Lanka Tamils will after amalgamation become the majority group in the combined unit of administration. Once the amalgamation is achieved the concept of the traditional homeland of the Tamils which has been a corner-stone of agitation in the post-independence period will be revived as this is the only ground on which the T.U.L.F.

denies the legitimate rights of the Sinhala people to become settlers in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Nor does the traditional homelands theory recognise any rights for the Muslims either except as an attenuated minority in the amalgamated territory. So, on the one hand while professing to urge the case for all Tamil speaking people in fact the T.U.L.F. is covertly seeking to secure the extensive areas for development, especially under the accelerated Mahaweli Program, for exploitation by the Sri Lankan Tamils alone. This in short is the duplicitous motivation behind the demand for amalgamation.

‘’ Quite candidly, the Sinhala people do not regard the demand for the amalgamation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a bona fide claim but as one motivated by an ulterior purpose, namely, as a first step towards the creation of a separate state comprising these two Provinces. The recent outrages by Tamil terrorists against the Sinhala civilian population settled in the North and East killing vast numbers of them, ravaging their homesteads and making thousands of them refugees in their own land has only made their apprehensions seem more real than ever before.

Even the most naive of people could not expect a single Sinhalese to go back to the North and/or East if the maintenance of law and order within those areas becomes the exclusive preserve of the political leaders and patrons of the very terrorists who chased them out. Could one for instance expect the survivors of Namalwatta to go back to their village if the leader of the Tamil Terrorist gang that murdered their families is the A S.P. of the area? Not only would those poor refugees not go back but those Sinhalese, including those in Ampara and Trincomalee, who are still living in the North and East, would necessarily leave their lands and flee to the South, if these proposals are implemented.”

These proposals are totally unacceptable. If they are implemented, the T. U. L. F. would have all but attained Eelam. It need hardly be said that even if the demand for a Tamil Linguistic State is granted, further problems and conflicts are bound to arise between that Tamil Linguistic State of the North and East and the Centre. Water, hydropower and the apportioning of funds are some of the areas in which conflicts could arise. A cause or pretext for a conflict on which to base a unilateral declaration of independence could easily be found.

There can be little doubt that what T.U.L.F. seeks to achieve by its demands is the necessary infrastructure for a State of Eelam, after which a final putsch could be made for the creation of a State of Eelam, comprising not only of the North and East, but of at least the hill country and the NCP as well.” (quoted in the Judgement of Wanasundara J in the 13th Amendment Case, Pp. 377 – 379)

With all our criticism of JR for the harmful consequences the country had to face with his open economy and executive presidency introduced after 1977, from the above statement it clearly appears that JR was not a traitor to this country, but a patriot who had some genuine concern for the country and its people. He had the wisdom to see through the danger posed to the very existence of this country as a unitary state by giving into unreasonable and crafty demands of the Tamil political leaders in the North-East.

President Jayewardene not only refused to accept these proposals of the TULF and other Tamil groups; he was not even prepared to discuss them. His firm response was that they are totally unacceptable.

(To be continued)

Continue Reading