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Development of renewable energy projects: President’s concerns

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BY Dr Janaka Ratnasiri

Proceedings of a meeting held by the President on 15.12.2020 with the Power Minister, Renewable Energy Minister, officials of the two ministries as well as officials of institutions coming under the two ministries to discuss issues pertaining to the development of renewable energy (RE) were shown in newscasts of TV channels as well as reported in the print media recently. The purpose of this write-up is to elaborate on some issues raised by him.

 

PRESIDENT’S CONCERNS

According to a report in The Island of 16.12.2020, the President has said that “he is exploring the possibility of rapidly adding power from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, to the national grid, and that many countries are turning to renewable energy sources for power generation. As per the “Saubhagyaye Dekma” Policy Statement, by 2030 the government expects to meet 70% of the total electricity demand from renewable energy sources”. He has further said that “the generation of renewable energy should be carried out expeditiously in a systematic manner with short-term as well as long-term objectives”. He was also heard saying that officials should be sincere and honest in this exercise.

 

REALIZING THE PRESIDENT’S TARGET

It may be recalled that the President first announced his target of achieving 70% of energy consumed for generation of electricity from renewable sources by 2030 at a meeting he had with the same audience on September 14th, more than three months ago. This was given in a press release issued by the President’s Media Division on the same day. See the website http://www.pmdnews.lk/70-of-electricity-demand-will-be-generated-using-renewable-energy-by-2030/.

In this press release, the President has emphasized that institutes with the authority to approve Development Projects should have feasibility reports stand by and the approval process should be expedited and that the Government has made the promotion of renewable energy a top priority. The President advised the Secretary to the President to issue a gazette calling for all the institutes to assist in this endeavour. But it appears that the President’s instructions have not been carried out.

The President would have convened the meeting on the 15th, probably because there has been no follow up on his announcement initiated during the last three months. Though he said once at a public meeting where officials were present, to take his word as a circular, things do not happen that way in the system. To give effect to the President’s target, the Secretary to the Ministry of Power, being the Cabinet Ministry, has to prepare a Cabinet paper seeking approval of the Cabinet for amending the Cabinet approved Guidelines for Electricity Industry by changing the target given in it from 50% to 70% as decided by the President.

This amended Guidelines document has to be presented to the Cabinet by the Minister and once approved, it has to be communicated to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), who will in turn direct the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to prepare its Generation Plan to conform with the amended Guidelines. The writer’s understanding is that this process has not happened to date, for which the Secretary to the Ministry of Power should take the responsibility. Incidentally, the PUCSL was a notable absentee at the President’s meeting.

After the President made this announcement in September, the writer published an article in The Island of 02.11.2020 under the heading “Will CEB make an effort to comply?” referring to the President’s target. In this article he wrote “Being a matter concerning RE share in power generation, the relevant Cabinet paper will have to be presented to the Cabinet by the Power Minister. The general practice is for the Secretary to the Ministry to draft the paper in concurrence with the Minister. The question is how long the Power Ministry will take to attend to this” (https://island.lk/will-ceb-make-an-effort-to-comply/).

It appears that the Secretary to the Ministry of Power has failed to take any action towards incorporating the President’s target into the Guidelines to the Electricity Industry during the last three months which is a pre-requisite for adding RE systems into the grid. Hence the first thing the President should do to see that “generation of renewable energy should be carried out expeditiously” is to have a more efficient and dynamic person as Secretary who can take decisions independently. If he had a Secretary like that, the PUCSL by now would have directed the CEB to revise its Generation Plan to conform to President’s target.

 

RENEWABLE ENERGY SHARE IN THE POWER SECTOR

The CEB’s Statistical Digest for 2019 reports the total electricity generation in 2019 as 15,922 GWh, of which major hydro had contributed 3,784 GWh (23.8%), coal, 5,361 (33.7%), petroleum oil, 5,061 GWh (31.5%), Mini hydro, 1,011 GWh (6.3%) and other RE sources including wind and solar adding to 750 GWh (4.7%). This gives the RE share in the power sector as 35% in 2019. The challenge is to raise this share to 70% by 2030. According to the CEB’s draft Generation Plan for 2020-39, to meet the demand in 2030, approximately 31,700 GWh of electrical energy need to be generated. This means 70% of this amount or 22,000 GWh of electricity will have to be generated from RE sources in 2030. With the 2018 RE generation standing approximately at 5,545 GWh, this has to be quadrupled by 2030 by adding 16,400 GWh units of RE. However, this is subject to output from the major hydropower plants which varies with the rainfall. For example, in 2018, this share was 45% with the major hydro contribution of 5149 GWh and the shortfall was about 15,000 GWh.

The total committed solar power systems as announced by the government from time to time amounts to about 1,400 MW and assuming a plant factor of 20% based on the performance of existing systems, they could generate about 2,400 GWh of energy a year. Similarly, the committed wind power systems will add up to 650 MW yielding about 2,000 GWh of energy assuming a plant factor of 35%. Dendro and waste to energy projects could add another 1,300 GWh of energy. This makes a total of 5,700 GWh of RE energy to be generated within a few years’ time beyond the existing plants. This means there will be a shortfall of about 10,000 GWh of RE energy for generating 16,400 GWh by 2030 to meet the President’s target.

One problem here is that the quantities of RE generation from such sources as hydro, wind and solar have hourly, daily, seasonal and annual variations. In particular, the hydro power contribution, both from major and mini, could vary widely depending on whether the year is a dry year or a wet year. If the 70% target is achieved in a wet year, it does not mean the target is achieved in a subsequent dry year. Hence, it is necessary to have a surplus of energy from other sources such as wind and solar to accommodate any drop in the hydro contribution due to adverse weather conditions. This could issue could become prominent in the future under climate change.

 

CEB’S RESPONSE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY PROPOSALS

A previous regime launched in 2017 a programme named “Soorya Bala Sangramaya” (SBS) to be implemented in four phases, with a view to accelerate the utilization of solar power in the country. Under Phase I, it aimed to generate 1 GW from one million solar rooftops, each with capacity of 1 kW. Phase II of the programme relates to building 150 solar power plants each with capacity 1 MW to be built by the private sector on build, own and operate (BOO) basis in two stages of 60 and 90 plants each of 1 MW capacity. The entire cost including land acquisition and extension of the grid as well as getting clearances has to be met by the investor and tenders were called in 2017/18. However, there is no information as to how many of these projects were accepted and commenced.

In 2020, another tender was floated inviting investors to build solar power plants with capacities in the range 3-10 MW amounting to a total of 150 MW at specified locations where gid substations are available, under Phase III of SBS programme. Though in 2017 the Cabinet approved building an aggregate of 1,000 MW of large solar power plants under Phase IV of the SBS programme, comprising 800 MW solar park at Pooneryn, 100 MW solar park at Siyambalanduwa, 100 MW solar system on Maduru Oya Reservoir, no firm action has been initiated by the CEB to proceed with these proposals during the last three years. The lack of enthusiasm to develop RE projects is understandable as the fuel, that is, solar radiation and wind, are available freely for RE projects unlike for thermal power plants for which the CEB has spent in 2019 a sum of LKR 50 Billion for oil and LKR 46 Billion for coal (CEB’s SD 2019).

The CEB publishes once in two or three years a Long-Term Generation Expansion (LTGE) Plan incorporating the capacities that need to be added annually for the 20-year period to the future to meet the future demand for electricity and specifying the type of corresponding generation units including their fuels that would generate electricity at least cost. The RE capacities to be added up to 2030 as included in the CEB Plan are 165 MW of mini-hydro systems, 555 MW of wind systems, 880 MW of solar systems and 55 MW of biomass systems. These are far below the capacities already approved by the Cabinet from time to time for installation in the short term which means that the CEB’s Plan does not fall in line with the government requirements. The CEB is not even responding to requests made by PUCSL to revise its Generation Plan to conform with the Cabinet approved present Guidelines which says that minimum of 50% of electricity has to be met from RE sources. Obviously, this calls for a change in management of the CEB.

 

SRI LANKA SUSTAINABLE ENERGY AUTHORITY

Sri Lanka commenced its RE programme in early seventies, about 50 years ago, when it established an integrated RE village at Pattiyapola in the Hambantota District with the assistance from UNDP. Its objective was to provide energy requirements of the village from RE sources including wind, solar and biogas generated from cow-dung amply available in the village. However, with the extension of the grid to the village a few years later, the project was abandoned.

 

The availability of international funding for the development of solar-home systems and the large number of sites suitable for setting up of mini-hydro systems associated with waterways in the Central, Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, prompted the expansion of the RE systems in the country in an ad-hoc manner.

In order to regulate and promote the RE industry, the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority Act, No. 35 was passed in 2007. Though the Board of the Authority comprises 21 members, mostly Secretaries to various Ministries, surprisingly there is no representation of the CEB in its Board. Under the following Articles in the Act, the SLSEA is required to prepare a comprehensive RE Development Plan and have it gazetted after receiving comments from the public and stakeholders.

7. (1) The Director-General shall within six months of the appointed date, cause a survey and a resource assessment to be commenced of all renewable energy resources in the country and prepare a renewable energy resources inventory and a renewable energy resource map in respect of each Development Area.

8. (1) The Director-General shall not later than three years after the appointed date, submit to the Board a comprehensive Renewable Energy Resource Development Plan (hereinafter referred to as “the Plan”) based on the results of the survey and the renewable resource assessment carried out under section 7.

(5) Upon approval of the Plan by the Cabinet of Ministers, the Minister shall cause such Plan to be published in the Gazette and it shall come into operation on the date of such publication or on such later date as may be specified therein.

It is interesting to find out whether such a Plan has indeed been prepared by the SLSEA and gazetted, and if so, the President should be aware of it. Otherwise, it is time its management too is changed if the President wishes to see that “generation of renewable energy should be carried out expeditiously”.

 

SRI LANKA’S POTENTIAL FOR RE SYSTEMS

Sri Lanka has a large number of reservoirs both ancient and recently built. Those in the North, North Central and Eastern Provinces where the solar insolation is high with area more than 1000 ha add up to more than 50,000 ha. Since solar PV panels require about 1 ha for every 1 MW of installed capacity, installation of solar panels covering at least 10 % of the area of the reservoirs has the potential to install 5,000 MW of capacity generating about 8,800 GWh of electricity annually.

An all-island Wind Energy Resource Atlas of Sri Lanka developed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of USA in 2003, indicates that nearly 5,000 km2 of windy areas with good-to-excellent wind resource potential exist in Sri Lanka. Using a conservative assumption of 5 MW per km2, this windy land could support almost 20,000 MW of potential installed capacity (SLSEA Website). Even if 10% of this amount or 2,000 MW capacity is utilized, it will generate about 5,200 GWh of energy annually.

It is clear therefore that Sri Lanka has the resources to develop more than 14,000 GWh of energy from RE projects, solar and wind alone above what has been already committed. In addition, it is possible to develop modern technologies to utilize biomass energy more efficiently in industries reducing the demand for oil. With these RE resources, the amount required to meet the 70% share in total electricity generation by 2030 could be achieved comfortably. Coordination and cooperation among stakeholder institutes such as the CEB, SLSEA, PUCSL, Irrigation Department and land authorities are prerequisites for realizing this target.

 

FUNDING FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS

The CEB has not shown any interest in utilizing funding for the development of RE systems offered by foreign sources. Under the International Solar Alliance, India has offered a USD 100 million credit line for the development of solar projects and has assigned a company in India to help Sri Lanka to build a solar park. This is a good opportunity to get one of the two planned solar parks built. Apparently, the CEB has not expressed any willingness to accept this offer.

Under the Paris Agreement, funding is available to developing countries for building RE projects that will save Carbon emissions. However, it is necessary for the host institution to prepare a suitable project proposal and submit it to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through the Ministry of Environment, which is the National Focal Point of UNFCCC, to seek the funding. The Writer’s understanding that neither the CEB nor the SLSEA has taken any initiative to prepare a proposal to seek funding for this purpose. The Environment Ministry’s Climate Change Secretariat is partly responsible for this lapse.

 

CONCLUSION

The President has clearly given his targets for achieving RE share by 2030 as 70% in the power sector. In order to achieve this target, the country has to generate 22,000 GWh from RE sources in 2030. Regrettably, the CEB or the SLSEA has taken only a lackadaisical attitude towards developing RE projects rather than an aggressive approach necessary to meet the President’s target. However, the country has enough RE potential to meet this shortfall comfortably, provided necessary regulatory system is in place and the responsible professionals are enthusiastic in developing them.

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Features

Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation

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By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.

 

 

NEGATIVE RESPONSE

 

The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.

 

 

SEQUENTIAL IMPLEMENATION

 

In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Features

Album to celebrate 30 years

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Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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Features

LET’S DO IT … in the new normal

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The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)

Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.

But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.

Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.

Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.

However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.

And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.

Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.

“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”

The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.

“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”

Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.

In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.

Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.

Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!

Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.

 

 

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