SL can meet energy demand with renewables by 2050

  • New ADB and UNDP report estimates $ 54-56 billion investment necessary
  • Highly ambitious target a big leap towards achieving climate sustainability
  • Report proposes gradual phase out of fossil fuels from the country’s electricity mix

Sri Lanka can meet its current and future electricity demand through the judicious use of renewable energy by 2050, according to a joint study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB)

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The report, titled ‘Assessment of Sri Lanka’s Power Sector – 100 percent Electricity Generation through Renewable Energy by 2050’, notes that Sri Lanka’s demand for electricity is going to increase in the future.
“Sri Lanka as one of the countries disproportionately affected by climate change has agreed to ambitious renewable electricity generation targets by 2050. Sri Lanka is among the 48 countries of the Climate Vulnerable Forum that agreed to make their electricity generation 100 per cent renewable as rapidly as possible and by 2050 at the latest,” the report said.

According to the report, by 2050 the country’s installed electricity generation capacity needs will increase from the current 3,700 megawatts (MW) to about 34,000 MW. Of this, 15,000 MW will be wind energy and about 16,000 MW will be solar energy. The balance capacity is expected to be met by hydro- and biomass-based power plants.
Further to the addition of renewable electricity generating sources, the study has identified the need to introduce an electricity storage solution which should provide instantaneous power of 3,600 MW and an energy storage capacity of 15,000 MWh. This will ensure the stability of the electricity grid.
Acknowledging this need, Sri Lanka saw an increase in the share of renewable energy (RE) in the electricity mix when in 2014 the country met its target of generating at least 10% of its electricity using renewable energy.
Subsequently, in 2015 the contribution of fossil fuels to the electricity mix decreased at the same time as a rise in the contribution of both renewable energy and large hydro power.
“As part of its Energy Sector Development Plan for a Knowledge-based Economy (2015-2025)15 Sri Lanka aims to become energy self-sufficient by 2030. It intends to do so using indigenous natural gas and large hydro along with renewable sources of energy. Thus, this target of 100 percent electricity generation purely through renewables by 2050 is highly ambitious and will constitute a big leap towards achieving climate sustainability for the country.”
The assessment indicates that the substitution of imported fossil fuel with renewable energy until 2050 provides direct monetary benefits and will reduce Sri Lanka’s fuel import bill by about $ 18 billion cumulatively. The report also identifies the need for structural changes in the retail tariffs of Sri Lanka to warrant financial sustainability of its operations.
The report estimates that total investments to the tune of $ 54-$ 56 billion will be necessary in the power sector to achieve the 100% electricity generation by renewable energy. Further, it emphasises the need to develop the ancillary services market in light of these changes in the generation system.
In an endeavour to more fully embrace renewables, Sri Lanka, while attending the 22nd UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Marrakech, Morocco, as part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, pledged to use only renewable energy for electricity generation by 2050.
Director ADB’s South Asia Energy Division Priyantha Wijayatunga said the ADB has expressed its continuous support to low-carbon development of Sri Lanka and recent proposals including a rooftop solar program and a large-scale wind power project demonstrate ADB’s commitment in this regard.
He said the assessment report can serve as a comprehensive example for future utilities globally on how decentralised clean energy services can be governed.
Considering the high costs and technical challenges associated with integrating renewables into the electricity generation mix, especially in terms of ancillary and balancing needs, the report proposes a gradual phasing out of fossil fuels from the country’s electricity mix.


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