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The Darker Side and the Light at the end of the Energy Tunnel

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Eng Parakrama Jayasinghe

Those of us who were hoping for some sanity to emerge in the energy sector were given a severe jolt on Dec. 15 on reading the press release from the Presidential Secretariat, presumably after the Presidents meeting with the Ministers and senior officials of the energy sector. This stated that His Excellency 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 an amended press release appeared next day 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. But it is 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, continues 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 of exchange, continuing to compromise our energy security. LNG is the lesser evil, and in the light of the CEBs reluctance 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, according to 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 Re-gasification Unit (FSRU) and a contract to supply LNG for 20 years on terms totally disadvantageous to us. But the million dollar questions remains unanswered:

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?

With 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 Siyambalanduwa 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 per unit expected from the LNG plant.

 

A place for Prosumers and Electricity as a National Industry

In addition the innovative program of State Minister 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 1,500 MW of Solar PV and create vast employment opportunities.

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

E Mail parajayasingle@gmail.com



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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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