Solar Industry Association (SIA) President Eng. Kushan Jayasuriya stated that despite having Ministers for Renewable Energy (RE) in the past, renewable energy projects didn’t get off ground, causing Sri Lanka to spend more money on importing fossil fuels. “We are optimistic that the new Power & Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera would look at our industry in an aggressive and expeditious manner.”

With regard to the recent amendment to CEB Act, Jayasuriya said, “For the past several years, new projects were not tendered for under the competitive bidding process, citing various issues. With the CEB Act amended, projects can be awarded on first come first serve basis. The projects could be expedited, but we lose the lowest price bidding. One argument is that the faster process is better than waiting long time for the lowest price bid.  However, we need time, to see how the amended Act works and we hope it does.”

He added, “The other regulatory authorities and agencies like CEB, SLSEA, and PUCSL should now work together to fast track the renewable energy projects to be implemented at least within the next six months. PUCSL should come up with a reasonable tariff for investors who come up on the basis of first come first serve basis, for the new amendment to work.”

When questioned on awarding renewable energy projects to Adani in Northern Sri Lanka, Jayasuriya replied “Sri Lankan businesses do not like Adani being offered a valuable renewable energy project as it is depriving an opportunity for domestic investors. Adani is also offered a far better dollar-based tariff rate when compared to local renewable energy producers. In principle, the local industrialists are against this. However, on the other side of the coin, the Government will look at various other factors here like the geopolitical issues and the country’s  economic situation. There are issues even in importing solar panels for local renewable energy producers due to foreign exchange shortages. So at this stage, the Ministry might want to utilise the foreign investors to the maximum. Also, in future, Sri Lanka has an idolised plan of connecting its grid to India, so that it could supply India when it has excess power and import it when necessary. So, the Government would have made a decision based on all these factors.”

He added, “Power Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, at a recent meeting with renewable energy producer association has promised to sort out issues of local renewable energy producers in an expeditious way, within two weeks.

“The Minister agreed that a practical tariff must be implemented and he also instructed the relevant officials to look into this matter in a pragmatic manner. He also said that he would negotiate with the Central Bank to see how the local industrialists can be assisted considering the issues related to import restrictions and foreign exchange shortages.”

By Rajiesh Seetharam