Sri Lanka records positive growth rates

  • 11 Jan 2010 06:32:29 GMT

    But we should not forget the fact that we would not be able to follow the same path that the western countries had followed in the past.

    Since we are now entering a new decade, which could be the turning point in our history, we have to build structures which could one day be transformed into sustainable development.

    As we cannot depend on fossil fuels anymore, the biggest challenge we will have to meet during this decade would be to find ways and means of producing our own energy needs. Therefore, to work towards our economic prosperity and sustainable development, it is of paramount importance for us to analyze our energy situation.

    If we consider the share of primary energy supply in 1980, nearly 70% of the total energy was coming from biomass and nearly 5% of energy was coming from hydro power. Therefore, 75% of the total energy needs were generated from renewable sources. In 1990 the share of biomass remained 70% and the hydro power share had risen to 10% (due to Mahaweli Scheme) thereby, 80% of the total energy being generated from renewable energy sources. When the whole world was depending on fossil fuels for energy needs, (86% of total energy was generated by fossil fuels where 36% from oil, 28% from coal, 22% from natural gas) we had a very sustainable eco-friendly energy usage pattern, which was diametrically opposite to what the world had practised.

    After 1990, the situation had dramatically changed by more and more fossil fuel being used to generate energy, completely neglecting the enhancement of hydro power, biomass energy or other renewable energies. As a result, in year 2000, the share of the bio mass to primary energy was reduced to 50% (now it is 48%) and the share of hydro power was reduced to 8%. However, as the petroleum share was increased to 42%, our energy security and sustainability had eroded and since then we have been heavily depending on oil exportation.

    Unfortunately, we are now saddled with the problem of borrowing money from foreign sources to settle our oil bills. If we consider our electricity sector, the situation is much worse than the total energy sector. In year 1990, 99.8% of total electricity was generated using hydro power and our per unit cost (Kwhr) was Rs.2/=. However, subsequent years showed development of two trends.

  • 11 Jan 2010 06:34:02 GMT

    One was the electricity sector planners being more and more inclined towards using fossil fuels as oil and coal had been their only options. The second one was for them to ignore the generation plans due to various political pressure. The result was blackouts and power cuts. Then the CEB introduced a new scheme to buy power from the private sector producers (PPP) on emergency basis. In year 2000, our hydro power share was reduced to 47% whereas, the thermal power was 53% of the total value. Accordingly, our selling price was raised to Rs.5/= although its generation cost had been much more, causing heavy losses to the CEB and our economy. Now our unit cost has been raised to Rs.14/= per unit and the CEB planners hope that by year 2015, when the first phase of the Norochchole plant is in full operation, we would recover the losses incurred by the electricity generation.

    When our planners designed coal plants for Sri Lanka in early 1990s, coal was very cheap and the plant cost also remained comparatively very low. But as the oil production capacity reached its maximum limits, coal was naturally treated as the complementary source of energy, specially to generate electricity. During the two decades from 1990 to 2010, the consumption of coal had increased, resulting in a series of exorbitant price escalation for coal. So it cannot be considered a wise decision for us to have changed into coal as a solution to our growing energy demands. As one analyst had clearly shown, if we were to use coal as our main electricity generation source, the average unit cost would be Rs.30/= per unit for the coming 30 years time. This will clearly show that coal is not cheap and not clean either.

    If we look at the carbon footprint or direct CO2 emission to generate one unit of electricity (Kwhr) coal emits nearly 1000 grams of CO2, whereas natural gas or LNG emits 450gm, oil emits 600gm, solar PV 32gm and wind-mills emits 9gm respectively. If we compare consumption of water per mega watt hour, coal needs 1485 - 2475 litres, gas plants need 531-904 litres, solar PV about `0` (zero) litres, wind about `0` (zero) litres respectively. So, if we incorporate all the factors, the real cost, CO2 emission, water usage, emission of sulphur and residue ashes, coal is not cheap and clean as mentioned earlier.

  • 11 Jan 2010 06:35:05 GMT

    On the other hand, you could not be able to export goods and services which are being produced by coal power electricity due to the proposed green tariffs which are to be imposed by the western countries in time to come.

    Therefore, we have no alternative but to improve our renewable energy sector, as early as possible. It has been identified that we have, 726Mw of mini hydro potential with another 300Mw of large scale hydro power projects. In pursuance to the feasibility studies that need to be carried out to ascertain the most suitable alternate or supplementary sources of energy, solar and wind capacity maps have already been prepared. Although, these are considered to be very costly exercises, one cannot help the authorities leaving no stone unturned. However, as a tropical country our main source of energy should be biomass. Our slogan should be `grow our energy - grow our food`.

    (The writer is the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources)

  • 11 Jan 2010 12:26:14 GMT

    If RW wins, Re-Gaying Sri Lanka