RE electricity gives way to fossil fuels

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Electricity generated by the cheap and non-pollutive renewable energy (RE) which led Sri Lanka’s electricity sector for five consecutive days to Thursday (14 July), gave way to the imported and pollutive fossil fuels (FFs) the following day Friday (15 July), with FFs continuing to lead the way on Saturday (16 July) as well, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) data issued yesterday (Sunday, 17 July) showed.

Prior to the present dispensation, the last time FFs led the way by providing over 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs was for four consecutive days to 9 July (last Saturday), statistics showed.

Of the total electricity supplied by the CEB to consumers in Sri Lanka on Saturday which was 38.66 gigawatt hours (GWh), FFs share was 19.96 GWh (51.63 per cent) and RE 18.70 GWh (48.37 per cent).

Friday’s FFs breakdown comprised CEB Coal (12.77 GWh), CEB Diesel (3.71 GWh) and private sector (PS) Diesel (3.27 GWh). And Friday’s RE’s breakdown comprised CEB Hydro 12.77 GWh, equivalent to 68.29 per cent of total RE generated on that day, followed by CEB Wind (2.10 GWh), private sector (PS) Wind (1.87 GWh), PS Mini-Hydro (1.56 GWh), PS Solar (0.25 GWh) and PS Biomass (0.15 GWh).

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).

CEB’s hydro breakdown of Friday comprised Laxapana (5.77 GWh), Mahaweli (5.68 GWh), and Samanalawewa (that is, both Samanalawewa and Kukule Ganga hydroelectric power project (HEPP) together): 1.32 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 197 days that have transpired in the year up to  Saturday, RE was responsible for providing 50 per cent or over of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs only on 46 (23.35 per cent) days and FFs in the balance 151 (76.65 per cent) of those days.

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, is however, generally, only 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