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Dark side of the energy picture in Sri Lanka

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The “rural energy crisis” has been receiving increasing attention from development policy makers because it affects the very survival of the vast majority of the world’s population, who live in the rural areas of the developing countries, and is also deeply inter-linked with the whole concept of sustainable development. The linkages between rural energy and sustainable development, however, need to be understood in the overall context of the energy situation in the developing countries. This also falls extremely well with SDG 7 of Agenda 2030 as an essential and a vital strategy of achieving the same.

The key message for policymakers is: Give wood energy a fair chance in the energy mix of your country in order to make the world a more sustainable and more environmentally friendly place.

Deviating from the conventional classification of energy as fuel sources which hides many development issues ,the Sri Lanka energy demand can be identified as consisting broadly of two major groups of energy (1) Centralized Commercial Energy consisting of electricity, fossil fuels and commercial renewable energy sources (2) Decentralized non commercial energy consisting of mainly biomass and other indigenous energy resources.

According to Sustainable Energy Authority (SEA) data, the largest component of energy demand in Sri Lanka in 2018 is for biomass energy amounting to 46.2.followed by 41% petroleum and 12.3% electricity (energy balance 2018). Biomass is also the main source of energy in household and industry comprising of 64..9% and 74..7 % respectively which highlights its importance as the life blood of the rural sector comprising of 81% of the total population and the industrial sector.

It is evident that burden of meeting the energy needs of group 1 has been carried out not by the government but by the rural people themselves led by the women to secure the sustenance and the livelihoods of the rural people for which government has not shown any appreciation or any interest. The mundane fact is that 191.4 PJ of energy amounting to 46.2% of the energy mix has never been the concern of the energy sector planning. What matters should not be the type of the energy source or fuel but the energy service provided which are the heat, light, mechanical and digital energy requirements.

While the energy sector should be congratulated for achieving 100% electrification in Sri Lanka which is a remarkable achievement, the present portfolios of Ministries in the energy sector focus only on Petroleum, Power and Renewable Energy Solar, Wind and Hydro Power Generation Projects Development . The major source of noncommercial biomass is overlooked . It is also observed that the term energy has been violated by identifying petroleum under the ministry of energy which is a misnomer which can create contradictions in policy matters as the term energy is used to encompass all energy resources.

The energy sector has incurred Rs 699 billion in foreign exchange almost 32% of the export earnings and an enormous expenditure to maintain a strong organizational infrastructure to cater for the commercial energy needs while neglecting the non commercial energy needs of the rural and estate poor.

This trend of depending on biomass has prevailed through out the last four decades and considering the present inequality in income distribution, it is likely to continue since affordability of modern fuels for the poor will not be a reality in the near future. This is evident from the fact that 30% of poorest get nine percent, the middle 40% get 29% and the richest 30% get 62% of the government income(Central Bank 2017 data) . A World Bank study states, at today’s prices that world LPG prices, regular users of LPG would likely need monthly household income in excess of US$350 and require at least 15 USD/month.

The Role of Liquefied Petroleum Gas in Reducing Energy https://openknowledge.worldbank.org › )

Nevertheless, presently there is a lack of focus on biomass energy by the government particularly due to the need for heavy focus on modern fuels for development of the country In contrast the important role played by biomass energy for the subsistence and economic development in the rural sector is not visible due to the decentralized and noncommercial nature of uncoordinated informal activities consisting of large number of stakeholders in the non-energy sector with a multitude of objectives not directly related to energy per se. Biomass energy is really not produced by the energy sector but a by product of activities carried out by the forestry, agriculture and plantation sectors which is not their main objective thus making biomass no one’s baby.

It is observed that this complication of uncoordinated, informal relationships and lack of insensitivity of the government which have contributed towards lack of governance within the energy sector in Sri Lanka have further isolated the low income rural sector to find their own solutions for survival. Non-cognizance on low-cost, improved biomass solutions has led to a scenario where biomass energy is negatively perceived with detrimental effects on sustainable development. It is totally unwelcoming to see that there is no appropriate mechanism devoted to the management of indigenous energy resources which still serves as the energy backbone of Sri Lanka.

The negative image of biomass, tends to be associated with deforestation, climate change under-development,  poverty and negative health effects. This image steers policy makers towards the replacement  of   biomass by other fuels, instead of improving  sustainability of the sector with integrated and holistic approaches.

In spite of the focus on alternatives, it is unlikely that biomass use will decrease in absolute terms over the coming decades. There is no evidence to show that firewood use is contributory factor to deforestation. Main four reasons for deforestation in Sri Lanka are encroachments due to agriculture, gem mining and settlements, infrastructure development projects, commercial agriculture ventures and several localized drivers like cattle grazing, cardamom cultivation and forest fires. (Kariyawasam, Ravindra, and Chinthka Rajapakse).

However, despite of the fact that, firewood is underestimated and ridiculed as a primitive fuel, the use of firewood by a majority of the population of Sri Lanka has not deprived but contributed towards the wellbeing of Sri Lanka in achieving many development indicators in moderation compared to many middle income countries. For an example according to world rankings, Sri Lanka’s rankings are Human Development Index 71, health 48, social capital 33, prosperity 84 and education 62. Moreover, a female born in Sri Lanka can expect to live 80.1 years (despite using firewood for cooking ) as oppose to 79 years in America). Infant Deaths/1000 in Sri Lanka is six, where it is six in America and 27 in India .

In the name of good governance and justice it is high time that the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy (Sustainable Energy Authority) take action to avoid a looming disaster in the near future due to the informal nature of biomass supply and use of biomass is allowed to continue without inputs from the government which not only create social instability also hamper the efforts of achieving sustainable development goals.

The scope for the government is to facilitate the availability of supply, provide low cost technology support for efficient use by improving access to ventilation and efficient use through improved stoves and mitigate negative impacts on health and climate as alleged by the international community. Nearly eight million tons of firewood is required annually for cooking and livelihoods and four million tons of firewood for the industrial sector. Each house would require nearly two tons/year. Meeting this target would require the coordination and integration of the various stakeholder activities already providing informal facilitation in unofficial ways.

Although negative perceptions of biomass energy are widespread, biomass is not necessarily an unsustainable or backward fuel. Sustainability depends on the practices applied in the value chain; for example forest management techniques and the efficiency of conversion and use. These commonly held misconceptions tend to associate biomass fuels with deforestation, indoor air pollution and underdevelopment.(European Union Energy Initiative and GIZ, Germany ). http://www.euei-pdf.org/fr/node/3880.

In the name of governance in the energy sector in Sri Lanka, the objective of this article is to request the Sustainable Energy Authority which has been given the mandate to promote renewable energy (not only commercial energy) to take the leadership and initiative to invite the relevant stakeholders, donors, NGOs for a consultative meeting with a view to identify stakeholders and cross cutting activities, linkages and capacity and make aware the importance of rural sustainable energy interventions which needs the formation of a network of organizations to be established under the local government ministry facilitated by the sustainable energy authority comprising of specially dedicated staff to biomass energy development.

R.M.Amerasekera. Eng

Executive Director, Integrated Development Association (IDEA)

Energy Advisor to Former Minister of Local Government Admiral Sarath Weerasekara

Project Manager, National Fuel Wood Conservation Programme

Electrical Engineer (Alternative Energy Development Unit, CEB)

Retired Director, Sustainable Energy Authority

Short term Consultant to the UNDP(Sudan), World Bank and FAO

Recipient of First Ever Sri Lanka Energy Efficiency Award(2015), Awarded by HE the President

for bringing sustainable energy solutions to people

Recipient of Mohan Munasingha Award (1985) for Energy Conservation Efforts

Nominee for World Clean Energy Award(2007)



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Lanka inflation hit 70.2% in August

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Food prices climbed 84.6 percent, while prices of non-food items rose 57.1 percent in the crisis-hit island nation.

(Al Jazeera) Consumer inflation in Sri Lanka accelerated to 70.2 percent in August, the statistics department has said, as the island nation reels under its worst economic crisis in decades.The National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) rose 70.2 percent last month from a year earlier, after a 66.7 percent increase in July, the Department of Census and Statistics said in a statement on Wednesday.

Food prices climbed 84.6 percent, while prices of non-food items rose 57.1 percent in the tourism-dependent South Asian country of 22 million people.The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) in August said the inflation rate would moderate after peaking at about 70 percent as the country’s economy slowed.

The NCPI captures broader retail price inflation and is released with a lag of 21 days every month.The more closely monitored Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI), released at the end of each month, rose 64.3 percent in August. It acts as a leading indicator for national prices and shows how inflation is evolving in Sri Lanka’s biggest city.

Sri Lanka’s economy shrank 8.4 percent in the quarter through June from a year ago in one of the steepest declines seen in a three-month period, amid fertiliser and fuel shortages.

“Inflation is expected to taper from September,” said Dimantha Mathew, head of research for Colombo-based investment firm First Capital. “However, inflation is only likely to moderate and reach single digits in the second half of 2023.”

An acute dollar shortage, caused by economic mismanagement and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has left Sri Lanka struggling to pay for essential imports including food, fuel, fertiliser and medicine.

The country earlier this month reached a preliminary deal with the International Monetary Fund for a loan of about $2.9bn, contingent on it receiving financing assurances from official creditors and negotiations with private creditors.

India on Tuesday said it had begun talks with Sri Lanka on restructuring its debt and promised to support the crisis-hit neighbour mainly through long-term investments after providing nearly $4bn of financial aid.

The High Commission of India in Colombo said it held the first round of debt talks with Sri Lankan officials on September 16.

“The discussions held in a cordial atmosphere symbolise India’s support to early conclusion and approval of a suitable IMF programme for Sri Lanka,” the High Commission said.

Sri Lanka will make a presentation to its international creditors on Friday, laying out the full extent of its economic troubles and plans for a debt restructuring.

The Indian High Commission also said New Delhi would continue to support Colombo “in all possible ways, in particular by promoting long-term investments from India in key economic sectors”.

India’s support to Sri Lanka this year has included a $400m currency swap, a $1bn credit line for essential goods and a $500m line for fuel. In addition, India has also deferred payment on Sri Lankan imports of about $1.2bn and given a credit line of $55m for fertiliser imports.

The High Commission said India had continuing development projects worth about $3.5bn in Sri Lanka, whose president earlier this month asked his officials to resolve obstacles to projects backed by India. He did not specify the obstacles or the projects.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said Sri Lanka will turn a free trade agreement with India into a comprehensive economic and technological partnership.

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Raigam Wayamba Salterns Group turnover tops 1 bn

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Raigam Wayamba Salterns PLC saw its group turnover increase from Rs. 959.6 million to Rs. 1,147 million recording a growth rate of 19.5% year on year.Despite the fact that the financial year 2021/2022 was filled with many challenges, as a result of prudent management practices implemented and followed, the Raigam Wayamba Group was capable of reporting its ever-highest growth in 2021/2022,” said Chairman, Raigam Group, Dr. Ravi Liyanage.

Raigam Wayamba Salterns PLC, which was listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) in 2010 is the front line player in the value added salt market in Sri Lanka and it supplies a range of consumer salt products under the popular brands “Isi”, “Ruchi”, “Welcome” and “Triple Washed” as well as various salt products used as an input for different industries in bulk form.All the consumer products of Raigam Wayamba Salters are SLS certified for its quality and consistency and the processes are ISO certified.’8

The Raigam Wayamba Salterns Group is equipped with salterns, salt refineries and processing plants located in Puttalam and Hambantota districts. In addition to that the raw material supply for these operations has been ensured by the 1,800 Acre saltern established in Kuchchaweli in Trincomalee District by the parent company of the Raigam Group. Further the Puttalam Salt Limited (one of the successor to the National Salt Corporation) is also an associate company of the Raigam Group.

The well-known Raigam brand and state of the art island wide distribution network are distinct strengths of the Raigam Group. The Raigam distribution network operates on a latest IT platform and also includes distribution channels for modern trade, industry and bakery sectors.

Sri Lanka’s economy which was under-performed for two years due to COVID pandemic situation was experiencing the impacts of the foreign exchange crisis in the latter part of the financial year 2021/2022. Despite the fact that the financial year 2021/2022 was filled with many challenges, as a result of prudent management practices implemented and followed, the Raigam Waymba Group was capable of reporting its ever-highest growth in 2021/2022.

The group turnover increased from Rs. 959.6 million to Rs. 1,147 million recording a growth rate of 19.5% Y to Y. At the same time the Profit after Tax grew from Rs. 149.7 million to Rs. 215.6 million at an annual growth rate of 44%. As a result of these successful financial performances the Earning Per share for the year stood at Rs. 0.76 compared to Rs. 0.53 in the corresponding year. This has made a significant impact on the value of the shareholders’ investment increasing the Net Asset Value Per Share form Rs. 5.06 to Rs. 5.74.

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Singer’s legendry sewing industry and Academies developing skills and entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka

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A name synonymous with Singer (Sri Lanka), Singer sewing machine has over the years become an indispensable product at local households, helping thousands of women and men to make a living through a sewing business. For over six decades, Singer has been manufacturing its trademark sewing machines in Sri Lanka. Singer brand has claimed many firsts in sewing machine innovations including the world’s first zig-zag machine and the first electronic sewing machine.

Singer Industries, a subsidiary of Singer (Sri Lanka) manufactures traditional, portable and digital sewing machines at a fully-fledged facility, where it provides direct employment for over 100 factory workers and accommodates around 150 service agents. The traditional sewing machines are of two variants such as the straight stich and the zig-zag sewing machine, while the portable and digital sewing machines cater to the modern customers. Singer Industries is mandated with assembly of sewing machines and manufacturing of cabinets and stands for sewing machines.

The sewing machine stands and cabinets are 100% locally manufactured with the help of local suppliers who also depend from sewing machine manufacturing. Singer Industries also consists of a strong R&D section for sewing machine innovations. All the sewing machines produced by Singer Industries are distributed by its parent company, Singer (Sri Lanka) through their 431 distribution touch points. Currently, Singer sustains its dominance as the market leader for domestic sewing machine industry with a market share of 85%. Among the facilities, Singer Industries provides to its customers, it has deployed special service technicians at island wide service centres for technical assistance and support related to sewing machines. Its YouTube channel has access to over 130 technical assistance videos to further support its valued customers.

The name ‘’Singer’’ is closely associated with sewing. One of its major contributions to the local sewing industry is the Singer Fashion Academy. For more than 60 years, the Academy has helped thousands of individuals to develop sewing skills and become entrepreneurs. The Fashion Academy conducts sewing courses and diplomas while a degree pathway is to be implemented soon to further support students. The Academy is also the first and only institute in the country to receive course validation status from the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) in the UK.

As of today, the academy consists of 54 branches Island wide and offers 22 sewing courses, 2 diplomas and another 10 courses as part of its Diwi Saviya program for low-income families. Annually, over 5000 – 6000 students get enrolled in Singer Fashion Academy’s courses. In addition to the physical classes, the academy conducts online courses and also provides a recorded version of lessons to further facilitate students. During the last decade, over 60,000 students have successfully completed the Fashion Academy’s courses and some of these students have already started their own sewing businesses. The Fashion Academy has helped in developing the passion of sewing among Sri Lankans and as a result, sewing has become a hobby among many.

Sewing can be considered one of the most feasible self-employment opportunities with its potential to generate a good income. A business of one’s own is a luxury at present due to current economic crisis. Many individuals who started their sewing businesses from scratch have developed their businesses to highly profitable ones. Singer Fashion Academy has all the resources ready to help develop sewing skills and is committed to develop a skilled workforce for the betterment of the country.

(Company news release)

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