RE gives way to fossil fuel

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Electricity generated by the cheap and non-pollutive renewable energy (RE) gave way to the imported and pollutive fossil fuel (FF) after a lapse of three consecutive days on Wednesday (6 July) with the waning of the South-West Monsoonal rains, Ceylon Electricity Board’s (CEB’s) yesterday’s (7) data showed.

Consequently, of the total amount of 39.590 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity consumed on Wednesday, FF was responsible for 51.98 per cent (20.58 GWh) of it and RE only 48.02 per cent (19.01 GWh).

Wednesday’s FF breakdown comprised CEB Coal (13.01 GWh), CEB Diesel (4.17 GWh) and private sector (PS) Diesel (3.4 GWh). Wednesday’s RE breakdown comprised CEB Hydro 15.06 GWh, equivalent to 79.22 per cent of total RE generated on that day, followed by private sector (PS) Wind (1.28 GWh),  CEB Wind (1.12 GWh),  PS Mini-Hydro (1.05 GWh), PS Biomass (0.26 GWh) and PS Solar (0.24 GWh).

CEB’s hydro breakdown of Wednesday comprised Mahaweli (8.03 GWh), Laxapana (4.98 GWh) and Samanalawewa (that is, both Samanalawewa and Kukule Ganga hydroelectric power project (HEPP) together): 2.05 GWh.

Mahaweli comprises Victoria, Randenigala, Rantambe, Kotmale and Upper Kotmale HEEP projects. Victoria, Randenigala, Rantambe and Kotmale HEPPs were built during the J.R. Jayewardene era after obtaining grant and concessional aid from the West.

Upper Kotmale, conceptualised during the Jayewardene era was built during the Mahinda Rajapaksa era after obtaining concessional Japanese aid. Samanalawewa conceptualised during the Jayewardene era was built during the Ranasinghe Premadasa era after obtaining concessional aid from Japan and Kukule Ganga conceptualised during the Premadasa era was built during the Chandrika Bandaranaike era after obtaining concessional aid from Japan. Laxapana, built during the D.S. Senanayake era with Sri Lanka’s own money was subsequently extended after obtaining concessional World Bank aid.

In the 187 days that have transpired in the year up to Wednesday, RE was responsible for providing 50 per cent or over of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs in only on 41 (21.93 per cent) of those days and FF the balance 146 (78.07 per cent) of those days.  

According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s 2021 Annual Report, the cheapest source of electricity generation to the CEB last year was ‘CEB Hydro,’ costing a mere Rs 1.67 a unit or one kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity followed by Coal (Rs 10.87), nonconventional RE such as Mini-Hydro, Wind-both CEB and PS, Biomass and Solar (Rs 18.99), ‘CEB diesel’ (Rs 29.01) and ‘PS Diesel’ (Rs 30.35).

Meanwhile, the 900 mW Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, built during the Mahinda Rajapaksa era sans tender call and incurring US$ 1.35 billion of taxpayers’ money to build it, is however, generally, partially operable for several days, forcing the Government of Sri Lanka/CEB to be over reliant on the expensive diesel to meet a large number of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs.

By Paneetha Ameresekere