Renewables powered 50% of national grid for 41 days – CEB

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Renewable energy (RE) provided over 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s (SL’s) daily electricity needs in 41 (55.41 per cent) out of the 74 days to  Sunday (21), Ceylon Electricity Board’s (CEB’s)  yesterday’s (22) data showed.

Meanwhile, in 32 (43.24 per cent) of the remaining 33 days to Sunday, over 50 per cent of the island’s daily electricity needs were met by fossil fuels (FFs) comprising coal and diesel and in the other single day (1.35 per cent), splits were evenly (50:50) shared between FFs and RE, respectively

Consequently, RE led by ‘CEB Hydro’ provided over 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s electricity demand for 22 consecutive days to Sunday being equivalent to 72.50 per cent of total RE, CEB statistics further showed.

 The last time, where for a period longer than this, when RE was the dominant player in Sri Lanka’s electricity sector for a consecutive number of days, took place 74 days ago, where, for30 consecutive days from 10 May to 8 June 2022, over 50 per cent of the island’s electricity needs were met by RE, once more led by ‘CEB Hydro’.

However in the 233 days that have transpired in the year to Sunday, RE was responsible for providing 50 per cent or over of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs in only 72(30.90 per cent) days and FFs in the balance 161 (69.10 per cent)  days, respectively.

In related developments, of the total electricity supplied by the CEB to consumers in Sri Lanka on Sunday which was  34.83Giga Watt hours (GWh), FFs share was 10.9GWh (31.29 per cent)  and RE’s share was 23.93 GWh (68.71 per cent) respectively.

Sunday’s FFs breakdown comprised CEB Coal 6.5GWh, CEB Diesel 4.25 GWh and Private Sector (PS)/independent power producers’ Diesel 0.15GWh and respectively.   Sunday’s RE breakdown comprised CEB Hydro 17.35GWh, followed by CEB Wind 2.3GWh, PS Wind 2.2 GWh, PS Mini-Hydro 1.49GWh, PS Solar 0.33GWh and PS Biomass 0.26GWh, respectively.

‘CEB’s Hydro’ breakdown of Sunday comprised Mahaweli 11.02GWh, equivalent to 63.52 per cent of total “CEB Hydro”, Laxapana 4.57GWh (26.34per cent) and Samanala wewa (i.e. both Samanala wewa and Kukule Ganga hydroelectric power projects (HEPPs) together, 1.76GWh (10.14 per cent), respectively. “Mahaweli Hydro” comprises Victoria, Randenigala, Rantanbe, Kotmale and Upper Kotmale HEEP projects, respectively. Victoria, Randenigala, Rantanbe 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. Samanala wewa 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 with Sri Lanka’s own money was subsequently extended after obtaining concessional World Bank aid.

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 kilo Watt 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

However, Sri Lanka’s sole coal electricity generator, the 900 MW Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, built by the Chinese after obtaining a foreign commercial loan during the Mahinda Rajapaksa era sans tender call and incurring USD 1.35 billion of taxpayers’ money to build it, isgenerally, 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 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