Energy sector experts speak of dark times ahead for SL; coal power plants to lose their shine?

Energy sector experts speak of dark times ahead for SL; coal power plants to lose their shine?

Energy sector experts speak of dark times ahead for SL; coal power plants to lose their shine?

Written by Staff Writer

08 Aug, 2016 | 9:11 pm

Experts in the energy sector opine that the country will face a serious crisis in the coming years, in meeting the national demand for electricity.

This has been attributed to the preparation of generation expansion plans by the Ceylon Electricity Board, keeping faith in coal fired power plants, while disregarding government policy on embracing natural gas and renewable energy sources.

The CEB’s Generation Expansion plan from 2013 to 2032, was submitted for the approval of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, in October last year. After studying the document and holding public consultations, the PUCSL decided that the plan could not be approved.

The primary cause for this decision was that the CEB had decided to stick with coal fired power plants as the main source of energy for the next two decades. The CEB had proposed to construct 9 new coal fired power plants to meet more than 70 percent of the national energy requirement.

Chairman of Strategic Enterprise Management Agency, Asoka Abeygunawardena stated that the CEB has been given four months to draw up a new plan because it cannot concur with the new generation expansion proposal because it states that more coal power plants should be constructed, which cannot be done, because coal and and fossil fuels are harmful to the environment.

On July 27, through this letter (please watch video) addressed to the PUCSL, the CEB had submitted a new plan for 2017 to 2035, making amendments to its previous plan. However, having examined the plan, the PUCSL noted that the report was incomplete and that a comprehensive report in line with government policy directives should be submitted.

According to CEB data, while the national demand increases by six percent annually, no new power plants have been added to the grid, since the commissioning of the Norochcholai Coal Fired Power Plant in 2010.

Explaining further, he added that President Sirisena and PM Wickeremesinghe held discussions with India to reach an agreement on alternatives to coal including natural gas. Even if the Sampur Power Plant is commissioned, it will come into operation in 2021 or 2022. As a result there is no space for coal power plants to meet the increasing demand, it was observed.

He went on to note that the best alternative is renewable energy as government plans where everyone can generate electricity and contribute to the grid. Major promotion of solar panels will be undertaken to meet the increasing demand.

The government has already appointed two expert committees to devise strategies on using renewable energy sources and natural gas, to meet the increasing demand for electricity, in line with government policy. One of the committees chaired by Professor Sirimal Abeyratne, will study the increasing demand for electricity and the cost of switching to other energy sources and submit a report to the government.

A parliamentary sub committee, chaired by Professor Ashu Marasinghe is also carrying out research on challenges facing the energy sector.

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