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Energy Sector: Darker side, and light at the end of the tunnel

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by Eng Parakrama Jayasinghe
E Mail parajayasingle@gmail.com

Those of us who were hoping for some sanity to emerge in the energy sector were given a severe jolt on 15th Dec on reading the press release from the Presidential Secretariat, presumably after the President’s meeting with the Ministers and senior officials of the energy sector. This stated that the President had given instructions to develop action plans to achieve the target of 70% contribution to the electricity sector by 2030 using Hydro, Solar Wind and LNG resources. This was indeed a shock, as this portends an attempt to constrain the space available for the future development of true renewable energy, thus scuttling the President’s declared target.

Fortunately, good sense has prevailed and the following itself an amended press release appeared without the reference to LNG as part of the 70% R E Target by 2030. It is also a matter of comfort to listen to the recordings of the above meeting, where the President was very clear in his instructions citing only hydro, wind and solar as the renewable energy sources. It is of course a matter of concern to us why bio energy which has none of the impediments of solar and wind, but has multiple spin off benefits, and has all the attributes of a source of firm power available 24/7 throughout the year, is continued to be ignored. Fortunately, there is an interest to accelerate the implementation of the many stalled renewable energy projects, thus setting the country on the correct path.

 

Role and Acceptability of LNG

Natural gas is certainly not a renewable energy resource. But is it a “clean” source of energy? Certainly, it is a lot “cleaner” than both coal and oil and is free from some most toxic components such as sulfur, lead, mercury and a plethora of heavy metals and radioactive nucleoids present in coal. But it will certainly emit…

*50% of carbon emissions compared to Coal not zero carbon as in case of Solar and Wind

*Significant amounts of Oxides of Nitrogen

*Potential fugitive emissions of Methane prior to combustion which is 23 time more potent than Carbon Dioxide.

In Sri Lanka’s context, what is even more important is the fact it is an imported resource subject to the vagaries of price fluctuations and the parity rate, continuing to compromise our energy security. LNG is the lesser evil, and in the light of the CEBs reluctance to accept the vast strides in technology which has made it possible for both Wind and solar to be upgraded to firm sources of electricity generation, and due to the lack of any significant additions to the generation capacity for over five years, limited use of Natural Gas may have to be viewed as an interim option.

Questions Needing Urgent Answers

However, a very severe uncertainty of the source and the means of supplying the LNG necessary to operate the 300 MW LNG plant, remains unresolved, and appears to be ignored, as per the information available to the general public. Sri Lanka escaped a potential disaster by not proceeding with an unsolicited proposal to set up a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) and a contract to supply LNG for 20 years on terms totally disadvantageous to us. But the Million Dollar Questions remains unanswered on…

1. What is the means of supplying LNG to the proposed 300 MW power plant at Kerawalapitiya?

2. Under whose control will such supplies, presumably from an FSRU operate, and which is the location chosen?

3. If the gas supplies are not available by the time the power plant is commissioned, will the plant be operated with diesel or some other oil and for how long?

4. What will be the extra cost of using such alternate fuels and who will bear the extra cost above the tendered price of Rs 14.85 per unit?

5. In the absence of any plans of resolving such issues, is the government still pursuing options for more LNG plants with India and Japan and now with the USA?

Under such a plethora of unanswered questions, even assuming that Sri Lanka will be obliged to proceed with the first 300 MW LNG plant, at least as a means of avoiding any more ruinous emergency power options, isn’t it time to take a very close look at the need or the justification for any further use of LNG?

As usual Sri Lanka has missed the bus in this instance too. If the first LNG plant was initiated and a viable means of supplying the LNG was initiated in 2016, we could have avoided depending on emergency power for at least two years up to now, and it would have improved the space for greater level of integration of Solar and Wind to the national grid and the consequent reduction of the huge losses incurred by the CEB annually.

 

Hope for the Future

But on a happier note, the world did not stand still, and technologies are now available to iron out variability and seasonal and diurnal nature of wind and solar energy . For example the State Minister is keen to launch the 100 MW Solar park at Siyambaladuwa and a further 100 MW of solar and 150 MW of wind power in Pooneryn very early. It is very likely that all these projects will generate electricity at costs less than Rs 10.00 per unit. Therefore the addition of adequate battery storage is feasible to at least serve the peak loads as well as to make them sources of firm power. The resultant cost may not surpass the Rs 14.85 expected from the LNG plant.

A place for Prosumers and Electricity as a National Industry

In addition the innovative program of State Minister Hon. Duminda Dissanayake to provide 5 kW rooftop solar systems to 100,000 Samurdhi recipients without burdening the treasury is a major paradigm shift in the electricity sector whereby the smallest level of consumer becomes a generator of electricity for his own consumption with a significant surplus and thus becomes a PROSUMER whereby the Electricity Industry becomes a contributor to the GDP instead of being a mere facility for other sectors to grow. With a total of 1.6 Million Samurdhi Recipients, the future potential for growth of this program is immense

As a further step in this direction the program to install micro Solar Parks of 100 kW linked to 10,000 distribution transformers will make the Electricity generation a national industry adding further to the GDP. These two programs would add 1500 MW of Solar PV and create vast employment opportunities.

We earnestly request the Hon Minster Dulles Alahapperuma and State Minister Duminda Dissanayake to very seriously evaluate this possibility. This will enable His Excellency the President to plan for the next goal of 100 % RE

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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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