Power options

Friday, 4 April 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

First China, then India and now South Korea are partnering with Sri Lanka’s Government to boost power generation. The latest tie-up with Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) to develop projects in areas such as thermal power plants, renewables and power grids. According to media reports, KEPCO is keen to invest in Sri Lanka’s thermal power sector, which renews the discussion of the Government’s energy policies. Issues relating to energy are among the most important and difficult challenges confronting the world today. Providing sufficient energy to meet the requirements of a growing world population with rising living standards will require major advances in energy supply and efficiency; doing this while mitigating the risks of climate disruption will be an even more challenging undertaking. It will require a significant shift in the historic pattern of fossil-fuel use and a major transformation of the global energy system. Especially in developing countries, the choice of technology, policy and economic levers that will be used to transform and expand their energy systems will have profound implications for their growth, international competitiveness and economic security and prosperity. Sri Lanka faces an increasing demand for electricity. This has grown gradually over time where the increase in the average per capita electricity consumption from 2010 to 2012 was 14.6%. Approximately, 94% of households are provided with electricity and the Government is determined to raise this to 100%. Further, the country provides grid electricity to about 80% of households, while around 3% of households use off-grid systems. At the moment, about 40% of electrical energy is used in households, 40% in manufacturing industry and the rest in the commercial sector. According to a recent report released by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), electricity generation has been in a transition from a predominantly hydroelectric system to a mixed hydro-thermal system, presently dominated by oil. Thermal power has currently become the major source of electricity generation – about 70.8%. Between 2000 and 2012, contributions from the major hydro plants have seen significant fluctuations – from a high 46% to a low 23% due to weather changes. Nevertheless, a significant portion of electricity demand continues to be met by conventional and non-conventional renewable energy sources which include mini-hydro. But share of hydropower is estimated to reduce from 40.2% in 2007 to 19.5% by 2020, while coal-fired thermal generation is estimated to reach 70.9% by 2020. Furthermore, there is ample evidence to suggest Sri Lanka’s climate has already changed and hydro power cannot be a dependable source of energy. Sri Lanka’s foray into coal has also been hampered. The Norochcholai power plant’s repeated breakdowns as well as huge questions over efficiency, technology transfers and questionable dealings making for a poor story. Sampur has been dragging on for years weighed down by doubts. The IPS also warns dependency on coal may also increase electricity prices and negative environmental externalities. Basically experts have warned the Government they could be jumping the gun on coal power plants while not paying enough attention to making hydro power more efficient. Solar and wind options have been receiving less and less attention from policymakers as well. The technological expertise from a country such as South Korea’s, if used wisely, can help Sri Lanka navigate these complicated options and pick the best for maximum development.