RE meets over 50% of electricity, 3rd day

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Cheap and clean renewable energy (RE) led by ‘CEB Hydro’ provided over 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s electricity demand for three consecutive days to Tuesday (2 August), Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) data from yesterday (3), showed.

The last time this phenomenon took place was eight days ago, where, for three consecutive days to 25 July, over 50 per cent of the island’s electricity needs were met by RE led by ‘CEB Hydro.’ In the interim eight days, over 50 per cent of the island’s electricity needs were met for five days (26 July-30 July) by the Imported and pollutive fossil fuels (FFs) comprising coal and diesel, respectively and in the balance three days by RE.

In the 214 days that have transpired in the year to Tuesday (2), RE was responsible for providing 50 per cent or over of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs in only 53 (24.77 per cent) days and FFs in the balance 161 (75.23 per cent)  days, respectively.

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 per one kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity followed by Coal
(Rs 10.87),
non-conventional 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), respectively.

In related developments, of the total electricity supplied by the CEB to consumers in Sri Lanka on Tuesday which was 37.11 gigawatt hours (GWh), FFs share was 12.21 GWh (32.90 per cent) and RE’s share was 24.90 GWh (67.10 per cent) respectively.

Tuesday’s FFs breakdown comprised CEB Coal (11.39 GWh) and CEB Diesel (0.82 GWh) respectively. Tuesday’s RE breakdown comprised CEB Hydro 19.34 GWh, equivalent to 77.67 per cent of total RE generated on that day, followed by private sector (PS) Wind (2.26 GWh), PS Mini-Hydro (1.87 GWh), CEB Wind (1.27 GWh) and PS Solar (0.16 GWh)  respectively.

‘CEB’s Hydro’ breakdown of Tuesday comprised Mahaweli (10.94 GWh, equivalent to 56.57 per cent of total ‘CEB Hydro’), Laxapana (6.18 GWh (31.95 per cent) and Samanalawewa (that is, both Samanalawewa and Kukule Ganga hydroelectric power projects (HEPPs) together, 2.23 GWh (11.53 per cent)), respectively.

However, Sri Lanka’s sole coal electricity generator, the 900 mW Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, is generally, only partially operative for several days, forcing the Government of Sri Lanka/CEB to be over reliant on the expensive diesel to meet a large size of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs on most days.

But, due to a US dollar shortage in the country led by corruption exemplified during Rajapaksa’s near-10 year tenure in office, from 17 November 2005 to 8 January 2015, Sri Lanka has no dollars to import not only the cheap coal to provide power to the country 24 hours a day, but also diesel to operate a regular bus service, resulting in partial schools and Government offices closures during a week, which is a record, whilst aiding and abetting socioeconomic unrest in the country.

In Sri Lanka’s 74-year history of independence, never once did expensive government foreign commercial debt (GFCD) as a percentage of total government foreign debt (GFD) exceed seven per cent other than during the Rajapaksa era. GFCD which was a mere four per cent of GFD when Rajapaksa took office in 2005, hit a record 28 per cent in 2009, before reaching a record 51 per cent in 2012 and staying that way since. An example of GFCD is the above malfunctioning coal plant.

During this period, IMF’s Resident Representative to Sri Lanka Dr. Koshy Mathai (2009-2013), warned the Government of excessive GFCD, but his warning fell on deaf ears.

By Paneetha Ameresekere