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“Renewable Energy Dominance”: The required reality



The sentiments expressed by Professor Kumar David in his article titled, “CEB’s LTGEP the best strategy” – published on September 3, 2020 differs significantly from the power sector development path favoured by many forward thinking professionals and academics in Sri Lanka.

While the Renewable Energy (RE) industry grows rapidly worldwide, Sri Lanka’s power sector technocrats continue to prepare generation expansion plans that emphasize coal and LNG based plants with token allocations for wind and solar. This conventional approach features large capacity fossil fuel based plants to be financed via state borrowing for meeting the demands of industry, commerce and consumers.

This approach is outdated! Today, the harnessing of RE resources for electricity generation is viewed as an important element in the economic and technological development of a nation.

Such a strategy helps to meet key development objectives such as: a) reduced exposure to risks (fuel price and currency); b) increased avenues for private sector investment (avoidance of State debt); c) dispersed project developments; d) technological advancement; e) skilled job creation, and; f) enhanced green credentials.

Does it make sense to export prosperity to a fossil fuel supplying country and increase the carbon footprint to effect an economy dependent on exports and tourism?

SL is uniquely blessed with abundant wind and solar resources. The technology is mature and continuing to advance, while costs are on a downward trajectory. Wind and solar power can be integrated with the existing fossil fueled and hydropower plants to meet the electricity demand in stable fashion. Analysis and simulation of the integrated power system will determine the quantum of RE capacity that can be supported by the existing power system.

The national leadership favors RE and State Minister Duminda Dissanayake referred to a farsighted plan to achieve a target of using 80 percent of RE in the national grid within the next 10 years.

While the target is ambitious, the generation expansion plan must reflect this vision. Experts can formulate plans to facilitate attainment of the goal.

Rather than brushing aside the potential of RE in dismissive fashion, Professor Kumar David could have contributed to a productive discourse by giving consideration to global technological trends on the RE front, and exploring their suitability for large scale adaptation in Sri Lanka.

Perhaps the following examples may encourage the Professor to do a rethink:

Wind/solar hybrid plants with battery storage: Land in the northern region of the island is zoned for development of wind-solar-storage hybrid projects. Auctioning of high capacity blocks for private sector development will see the benefit of economies of scale (low tariff). Advanced weather forecasting and battery storage for ramped electricity supply and withdrawal provide grid friendly characteristics. The annual energy potential of such hybrid RE power plants will be significant.

Micro grids: Micro grids for rural electricity supply based on Solar PV with battery storage and optional ‘off peak’ electricity supply via grid will curb electricity demand from fossil fueled plants. This helps to reduce transmission losses and address climate concerns. With over 70% of the SL population resident in rural areas, does it make sense to generate and distribute so-called “affordable” electricity from centralized fossil fueled plants and push the nation further into debt? The scale up potential of rural microgrids must be explored.

Prosumer: A prosumer (producer/consumer) is identified as an electricity subscriber with rooftop solar, battery storage and smart controls, who is subject to ‘time of hour’ metering, peak demand charge and demand side management programs. Smart devices will control consumption during high tariff rates and shave peak demand level by shutting off appliances.

Should the State deliver “affordable” fossil fuel based electricity to “high end” users such as hotels and luxury dwellings when they could be financially incentivized to adopt state of the art technologies? When commercial and industrial facilities and high end residences are considered, the scale up potential of this prosumer phenomenon will be significant.

The above are just a few examples. There is more! The hill country with existing hydro, future pumped storage combined with solar and wind opens up numerous possibilities.

A RE based power expansion strategy with private sector investment will lead to distributed generation and “unbundling” of the grid. Restructuring of the state electricity sector is essential.

Professor David should shed his conventional thinking and develop familiarity with the world of wind, solar, batteries, distributed generation, smart grids, smart meters, digitalization, AI, IoT, etc. This represents the future and Sri Lanka should adapt fast.



Consultant – Renewable Energy


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Meat eating



Recently, I have made it a point to listen carefully to dhamma discourses by erudite Bhikkus , very specially on the consumption of meat by Buddhists and the Vinaya rules laid down by the Buddha on this subject.

To begin with it was one of the conditions which Devadatta insisted on as mandatory, which the Buddha in his profound infinite knowledge declined as impractical. He even cited instances where previous Buddhas declined such requests. What the Buddha said was that killing was not at all permissible, but the consumption of meat was left to the discretion of the persons concerned whether it be the lay persons or bhikkus.

Some may dislike meat out of sheer sansaric habit while others may relish it, but the Budhdha laid down certain important pre-conditions on the consumption of meat. He prohibited eating the flesh of 10 animal species like the lion, elephant, tiger, leopard, bear, horse, dog, cat, snake and human flesh.

On the other hand he prescribed an important Vinaya rule known as the ‘thri kotika paarishudda‘ which literally means that whoever gives it as an offering or consuming it must make sure that the meat comes from an animal which was not specifically slaughtered for the purpose. Meat bought at a market is without doubt such a meat and may be offered to and received by a Bhikku..

A previous Buddha has even assisted a bhikku through his infinite knowledge by suggesting that he should go begging for alms on a particular street where a lay dayaka was preparing a meal of rice with crab curry. The bhikku concerned was extremely pious but could not attain arahat status as he had an excruciating earache. No sooner he ate the crab meal his acute pain ceased and he concentrated his mind on the dhamma and attained Arahathood then and there. The layman who offered the crab meal noticed the difference in the Bhikku and was thrilled to know that he had given alms to an Arahat.. This hppy thought came back to him at the time of his death, whicn occurred very much later.

His Chuthi chiththa was so powerful that he was born in a splendid divine abode with a huge mansion which had the insignia of a large golden crab at its entrance to remind him and all of the crab meal which was offered to an Arahat.

A lay person once asked the Buddha whether it was correct to recommend the eating of foul smelling flesh like fish for instance and the Buddha has replied that tanha irrsiya krodha maanna dhitti are more foul smelling and should be eschewed completely if you wish to attain the bliss of Nibbana. Looking down on people who consume meat is also a sinful thought which should be avoided , as it does not benefit anyone.

Dear friends, I have tried to tell the English speaking folk who do not have the opportunity to listen to our Sinhala sermons some profound truths. They even do not know that there have been more than 500,000 Buddhas in the past aeons of time and a Mahaa Kalpa is an enomous space in time which only a Budhha can comprehend. The knowledge of a Sammaa Sambuddha is infinite.

Lastly a word of caution to those who obstruct the doing of good deeds. They cannot even receive the Anumodnaa Kusalaya by a mere wish of happiness at a good deed, [sadhu] but will certainly reap the evil rewards of obstructing good deeds, May you all be well and happy.

Cecil de Mel,
Tel. 011 2648565

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Nuclear power for Sri Lanka



There is much talk at the moment of nuclear power generation for the country. The idea is certainly very good. We do need more energy to run the county and the future demand will be far higher than now.

I do understand that nuclear energy is clean, cheap and harmful effects on the environment are minimal. So far the thinking is fine; but it’s important to bear in mind that in case of an accident, the damage will be colossal as we have seen in Chernobyl. What a disaster that was! And in a country much more disciplined than us and with far better technological knowledge and experience. Our knowledge will be wanting.

If all does go well, it will be fine but in case of an accident I hate to think of the kind of disaster we shall have to face.

We have a reputation for using cheap material and also for taking short cuts. Our work ethic too is most wanting. A nuclear power plant needs to be handled with the greatest care. An accident will cause much irreparable damage.

If we do go ahead with the nuclear power proposal, the project (including, most importantly, construction) must be handled by those who have experience and an unblemished record.Nuclear power will be a must some time or other. We must tread the road towards it extremely cautiously.

Padmini Nanayakkara

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It was with the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna government of SWRD Bandaranaike that the nationalization programme started with the Ceylon Transport Board being the first. When this was done it was a stupendous task as those who were handling the takeover had to get all the buses belonging to the bus companies throughout the island along with their properties and the all the workers. Those who were absorbed into this vast public transport organization were known as Section 38 employees.

During the Dudley Senanayake government, Mr. GG Ponnambalam, who was the Minister of Industries, established two important factories, namely, the cement factory in Kankasanturai and the paper factory in Valaichenai. These two factories were later transformed into the Cement Corporation and Paper Corporation respectively. They were functioning well and saved a lot of foreign exchange for the country.

Then we got a gift of the Steel Corporation from the then Soviet Union which functioned from Oruwela. The talk at the time was that Russia had dumped some time expired machinery in establishing this factory. I am not sure how far this is true.

The other semi government ventures that were established were the Sugar Corporation in Pelwatte and Sevanagala, the Milk Board in Narahenpita, the Mineral Sands Corporation in Pulmoddai, the Salt Corporation in Hambantota and the Ports Authority.

The most important and largest semi government Board that was established was Ceylon Transport Board (CTB). This was done by taking over all the bus companies that were operating throughout the island lock stock and barrel which meant not only the buses, but also the properties where the offices and workshops of the bus companies were located and all the work force.

Mr. SWRD Bandaranaike himself handpicked Mr. Vere de Mel, a former Civil Servant, to be the first Chairman and with the help of some Civil Servants such Messrs. M Rajendra and Edwards, they were able to run the affairs of the CTB efficiently. Asia’s biggest passenger transport organization ran so effectively and efficiently from day one that even the owners of the then well-run bus companies such as the South Western Bus Company were flabbergasted as to how it was done with none of the top level administrators having had any experience in running such an enormous venture.

However, with changes of governments at various times the organization was politicized and gradually the rot set in. Now the politicians wanted make the CTB an employment base to get their henchmen in at various levels. Then there were far too many employees and this plus the lethargy of employees resulted in the downfall of the CTB.

The Ports Authority too had to face this same fate. Once when a Member of Parliament from the Eastern Province was assigned the portfolio of Shipping, he filled the Ports with constituents from his electorate and the Port of Colombo had such a large number of employees, the Ports Authority did not make any profit as the salaries and overtime payments were so high.

When the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) was established with Mr. MJ Perera as its first Chairman, it was doing a good job, buying all the paddy harvested at a price that helped the farmers who toiled hard to get a good harvest. But later on, the PMB was so ineffective it could not buy the paddy that the farmers had harvested at a reasonable price as their overheads were high.

Politicization of these once well organized and functioning Corporations have ruined them, some beyond resurrection.


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