50 per cent RE used till 23 August – CEB data

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Cheap and clean renewable energy (RE) provided over 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s (SL’s) daily electricity needs in 43 (56.58 per cent) out of the 76 days that transpired  to  Tuesday (23 August), Ceylon Electricity Board’s (CEB’s)  yesterday’s ( Wednesday 24  August) data showed.

Meanwhile, in 32 (42.11 per cent) of the remaining 33 days to  Tuesday, over 50 per cent of the island’s daily electricity needs were met by the pollutive and imported fossil fuels (FFs) comprising coal and diesel and in the other single day (1.32 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 24 consecutive days to  Tuesday (23 August), with   Tuesday’s ‘CEB Hydro’ percentage figure alone being  equivalent to 77.92 per cent of total RE, CEB statistics further showed.

 The last time, where for a period longer than this, where RE was the dominant player in Sri Lanka’s electricity sector for a consecutive number of days, took place 76 days ago, where, for 30 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 235 days that have transpired in the year to  Tuesday, RE was responsible for providing 50 per cent or over of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs in only 74 (31.49 per cent) days and FFs in the balance 161 (68.51 per cent)  days, respectively.

In related developments, of the total electricity supplied by the CEB to consumers in Sri Lanka on Tuesday which was  39.36 gigaWatt hours (GWh), FFs share was 11.19 GWh (28.43 per cent)  and RE’s share was 28.17 gWh (71.57 per cent) respectively. Tuesday’s FFs breakdown comprised CEB Coal 6.5 GWh, Private Sector (PS)/independent power producers’ Diesel 2.84 gWh and CEB Diesel 1.85 GWh respectively.   Tuesday’s RE breakdown comprised CEB Hydro 21.95 GWh, followed by PS Wind 2.23 gWh, CEB Wind 1.75 GWh, PS Mini-Hydro 1.66 GWh, PS Solar 0.32 GWh and PS Biomass 0.26 GWh, respectively.

‘CEB’s Hydro’ breakdown of  Tuesday comprised Mahaweli  13.01 gWh, equivalent to 59.27 per cent of total ‘CEB Hydro’, Laxapana 7.15 GWh (32.57 per cent) and Samanalawewa (ie both Samanalawewa and Kukule Ganga hydroelectric power projects (HEPPs) together, 1.78 gwh (8.11 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.

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 mix of  foreign commercial and concessional loans during the Mahinda Rajapaksa era sans tender call and incurring US$ 1.35 billion of taxpayers’ money to build it, 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 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