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Sri Lanka Strengthens Economy by Installing Renewable Energy Sources

Sri Lanka’s demand for electricity is growing quickly

Sri Lanka’s peak electricity demand of 2000 MW is growing at a rapid 5%-8% every year.

To keep pace with the increase, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) have developed a clever plan. Over the next 10 years, over 400 MW of mini hydro and wind farms will be installed. It is anticipated the additional generation will meet the increased demand levels and reduce Sri Lanka’s dependance on foreign fossil fuel sources, such as coal, natural gas and petroleum.

Sri Lanka currently has over 200 MW of mini hydro power stations installed, which are not dispatched centrally, but shown as a reduction in demand. Additionally, there is 30 MW of wind generation installed and another 60 MW soon to be connected.

We met with Mr. Shihan Diddeniya, CEO of renewable energy at CEB, to learn more about Sri Lanka’s plan to increase the capacity of intermittent renewable generation.

Rapid growth in demand

Mr. Diddeniya explained that Sri Lanka currently has about 88% electrification. That is, 88% of households in Sri Lanka have direct access to the electricity grid. The proportion of electrified homes is growing quickly with complete electrification likely to occur over the next few years. The demand growth rate is a staggering 8% and once total electrification is complete, growth will remain at a high 5%.

A surplus of generation at low demand periods

Shihan told of how the challenge for Sri Lanka is not with fault level contributions from embedded mini hydros or building lines to remote wind farms. He emphasized Sri Lanka’s challenge is with excess generation capacity during low demand periods where electricity usage drops dramatically below the 2000 MW peak to 860 MW.

Mini hydro and wind power plant output cannot be reduced because their power is given first preference. As an example, if run of the river mini hydro and wind power plants were to be producing 400 MW, then only 460 MW remains to be supplied by thermal coal stations. The surplus generation could be resolved by switching off coal fired stations. But coal power stations are limited in their ability to switch on and off quickly, it may take days for a coal power station to run at full capacity from a cold start.

Sri Lanka will soon have 100% electrification

A new link to India

A transmission interconnect between Sri Lanka and India, which has been contemplated since the 70’s, is expected to be started after 2013. The 285km, high voltage DC link will have a total capacity of 1000MW, to be installed in two 500MW stages.

The extra capacity made available by this link will go a long way to relieve the immediate pressures the grid is currently experiencing.

Mr. Diddeniya will raise funds to complete the new renewable energy projects from local and international banks and investors during the next few years.