Gammanpila at CERAWeek: Ensuring energy security

By Thameenah Razeek | Published: 2:00 AM Mar 5 2021
News Gammanpila at CERAWeek: Ensuring energy security

By Thameenah Razeek

Pointing out that Sri Lanka does not have coal reserves and is still awaiting the production of domestic oil and gas, Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila said total renewable energy now accounts for approximately 40 per cent of total power generation of Sri Lanka while coal and fuels make up the rest. 

These comments came up at the energy conference CERAWeek, which kicked off on 2 March with industrial leaders under the theme, ‘Energy Security’ was held virtually.

Gammanpila represented Sri Lanka and spoke of the challenges of achieving 70 per cent of the country’s energy needs from renewable energy by 2030, ensuring energy security in Sri Lanka in the short-term. 

The Minister also spoke of Sri Lanka’s plans to implement integrated energy projects with zero carbon emission, combining the geographical advantages of making Sri Lanka an energy hub with traditional and renewable sources.

He said, unlike most other nations, Sri Lanka’s power sector has been under a declining renewable energy integration trend ever since the massive drought in 1996 disrupted the hitherto 100 per cent hydro power generation base permanently by introducing thermal generation plants. 

“With the growing energy needs of the country, the thermal plant market share has expanded partly because major hydro power is now nearing capacity and Sri Lanka has been slow in tapping into our abundant natural resources,” he said. 

Talking about the challenges and opportunities that face, he said as for petroleum imports, 25 per cent is in the form of crude oil and 75 per cent in the form of products. Therefore, there is a clear need to expand the existing refinery and build at least one more, if the country needs a full leverage in regional connectivity.

“We have planned to stimulate domestic energy production both in the form of harnessing more renewable energy, as well as attracting investment in exploration and production of hydrocarbon. For the latter we are breaking new ground with novel licensing formats which we will be happy to share,” he said.

Linking his speech about greenhouse gas emission and its impact which was one of the central topics of the conference, Gammanpila said Sri Lanka’s per capita carbon emission is at 1.2 Mt when that of the world is in excess of 5Mt. “Our forest cover is 30 per cent. Despite this fact, we recently set a target of increasing renewable energy to 70 per cent for power generation by 2030. Achieving this would require a combination of limiting the expansion of thermal power plants and integrating more renewable energy into the national grid,” he said.

Gammanpila said on the one hand, there is an economic case for producing domestic oil and gas and increasing refining capacity, providing backward linkages to the marine fuel industry and leveraging our strategic location in the region. On the other, we need to keep lowering carbon emissions to meet global obligations. This inevitably draws us to look for large-scale integrated energy projects with a mix of hydrocarbons and renewable energy such as offshore gas-to-wire solutions complemented by wind and floating solar along with waste-to-energy conversions. My hope is to start discussions with suitable partners for the Government of Sri Lanka to work with all aspects of these opportunities and bring them to a reality,” he said. 

By Thameenah Razeek | Published: 2:00 AM Mar 5 2021

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