Expansion in energy sector

Expansion in energy sector

Ceylon electricity board plans massive capacity augmentation

The policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is that it will not engage in power generation in the future, but purchase power from the private sector, which will produce it. The government will provide the transmission and distribution network and the private sector will supply power, from kilowatt-level rooftop solar power to large power plant. In certain cases, the private sector and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will have joint ventures. Hence there is a good opportunity for the private sector to participate in the power system, both as investors and as plant operators.

Suren Batagoda

As in many other countries, the power sector has become somewhat controversial, due to the need to avert global warming. On the one hand, environmentalists and a section of professional opinion advocates only introducing new capacity using renewables, such as solar, wind, geothermal and wave power. On the other hand, some professional groups argue that, right now, having 100% renewables is unfeasible and that Sri Lanka should have a diversified energy system, with various options, for example LNG, coal, diesel/ furnace oil, biomass power, waste-to-energy, as well as renewables. “Because of these opinions,” says Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy Secretary Suren Batagoda, “it took two years for the government to agree to a common position. Finally, in September, the Cabinet decided that Sri Lanka should have a diversified power generating system.”

The problem Sri Lanka faces is the intermittent nature of some renewable sources. For example, at night or in cloudy weather, solar power is not available, and when the wind dies down, neither is wind power.

“In order to provide base load one should have continuous power,” Batagoda explains. “Sri Lanka’s power system is very small, and because of the system’s technical limitations, this wind and solar intermittent power cannot absorb more than 20% of the total demand.”

Hence, the government decided that in the immediate future, that is by 2030, that intermittent, non-conventional renewables, such as wind and solar power, would supply 30% of the system. The remaining 70% of the system would be powered by firm energy sources. A policy decision was made that 1/3 of this would be met  by liquid natural gas (LNG) and another 1/3 from coal – although there were serious environmental issues associated with this – and the remaining 1/3 from major hydro-electric plant and from refinery by-products such as naphtha and heavy fuel.

“We should have an energy mix,” Batagoda justifies the Government’s thinking. “Some people argue that we should go for least-cost, but the government decided that in order to have energy security Sri Lanka should have various different products.”

Eventually, however, non-renewable sources will be phased out gradually. The government has made a decision to make Sri Lanka a low-carbon economy, with a 100% renewable power sector by 2050.

“To do so,” Batagoda informs us, “Government policy is to encourage harnessing every potential renewable energy source.” At present, the installed capacity is about 4,100 MW (of which about a third is from hydro-electricity and 40% from coal). This is sufficient to meet the daily demand of about 2,400 MW, including peak demand, which occurs in the early hours of the night. Over the next few years, the government expects a 6-7% annual increase.

To meet this demand, the Government expects to increase installed capacity by adding 400 MW of solar power, 400 MW of  wind power, 100 MW of mini-hydroelectric power and 100 MW of biomass power, in addition to 1,800 MW of LNG and coal power.

“We are doing non-conventional renewables in a big way,” Batagoda tells us. “We have a lot of faith in the rooftop solar programmer, which has been very successful. Within one year we have already completed more than 150 MW. Now we are introducing kilowatt-scale power plant for small customers. Poor households can have their own power plant. We are planning to convert all our electricity consumers to power producers. We will buy electricity, from small household rooftops to the 200-300 MW scale. We have every level of investors.”

So far 60 tenders have been called for solar plant of 1MW  each, with a further 90 forth-coming later, and 150 more tenders coming soon. A 100MW solar park is to come at Siyambalanduwa in the Moneragala district and another of 100 MW at Pooneryn, in the Kilinochchi district. Tenders have been called for 100MW of wind power, while two for 10 MW wind projects in Chunnakam, in Jaffna district, have already been done. A further 70 MW of wind power are to come from Pooneryn. Eventually, the Pooneryn wind and solar park will have 600 MW installed.

There are several other renewable energy sources, for which technologies are not available in Sri Lanka, such as geothermal, wave energy and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). The Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) and the CEB have been asked to call tenders for pilot-scale new technology projects. Consequently, in the near future, six tenders will be called from private sector companies for proposals for six technologies, among which are geothermal, wave energy and OTEC.

It is proposed to link Sri Lanka to India by a submarine cable

Batagoda is keen to get fresh input to develop these technologies. “We are looking for the private sector to submit geothermal energy proposals from 1 MW to 10 MW, in areas such as Sooriyaweva and Amparai. Investors have the opportunity to come up with proposals. Then we are calling another proposal from private investors to develop wave energy, which also has potential – Sri Lanka has a long coastline. We have found that there is significant potential in the Southern Province. We are also calling for tenders from the private sector ranging from 1MW to 10 MW for wave energy as well. As for OTEC, using the ocean’s temperature difference, we have received three proposals from various countries already, but we want to call for fresh proposals again, on tender, because our Electricity Act says that every single bid has to be procured competitively. We will evaluate the proposals based on their unit costs.”

Also in the pipeline are biomass, waste-to-energy and biogas projects. Sri Lanka already has five biomass power projects with  sustainable energy plantations, but further projects are being contemplated. In waste-to-energy, four projects of 10 MW each have been approved, for which investors for three in Muthurajawela and Karadiyana, which use steam turbine or other technology, are on the ground – although the fourth is not moving.

“We have tried to call small-scale waste energy projects based on biogas,” Batagoda clarifies. “The three projects we awarded are not for bio-gas. Some people argue that if you use biogas technology you can use the residuals for fertiliser and we are thinking of calling for proposals and add to the system.”  One of the obstacles in developing intermittent renewable power sources is the stability of the grid. The addition of more intermittent power can make the grid unstable. One solution is to develop a smart grid, which can be managed so intermittent power can be stabilised. The government has decided in principle to convert Sri Lanka to a smart grid by 2025.

“Now we think that we may advance this to 2020, only 2 years from now,” reveals Batagoda. “We have started in a small way, by connecting 50,000 households in the Dehiwela area to smart meters, and another 500 households in a pilot project by LECO [Lanka Electricity Company] in Negombo. done.”

Public-private joint venture Ante LECO Metering Company has started producing smart meters [see box over leaf ], with which the Government planned to replace the meters of all six million customers by 2025. However, one million of the six million customers purchase about 90% of the power, so connecting just these big customers  would essentially convert Sri Lanka to a smart  grid. So now the authorities are considering  whether to go forward with this USD 2-3 billion project as early as possible.

The Government is also planning to increase the base load. At the moment it has 1000 MW in Kerawalapitya and 400 MW in Hambantota. It is developing plans for a 500 MW LNG power plant at Kerawalapitiya with India, and for another 500 MW LNG plant with the Government of Japan, and has called tenders for a 300 MW LNG plant, to be commissioned by 2020-21; with a further five in the next 5-10 years. It plans two more coal plant – one at Foul Point and another at Norochcholai. Additionally, in the short term, it plans to call tenders for four 25 MW diesel/heavy fuel power plant at Moneragala, Pallekale, Horana, and also a 100 MW bargemounted power plant at Galle.

Since gas deposits have been discovered in Mannar, the tough question is who will buy this gas. The Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy is now negotiating with the Petroleum Resource Development Secretariat,  for a joint tender to develop both the deposit and a natural gas power plant to run off it, whereby the developer of the gas deposit can sell electricity to the CEB. This would enable the gas deposits to de developed quickly and  also reduce the cost of the power system.

Batagoda explains that with all these thermal projects coming on stream, the base load would increase. “And when the base load goes up, more renewables can be absorbed. And when we convert the system to smart meters, even more renewables can be absorbed. With that we shall have enough power, we shouldn’t have any power shortages.”

The only problem is that, in case of drought, the system will need more thermal power. The Government has been, for the past five years, studying how to connect the grid to India. Some feasibility studies have been done on how to link SL power system to the Indian power system through a proposed Indo-Sri Lanka submarine cable line. Now it is considering linking this to an offshore 1000 MW (1 GW) wind farm at Mannar.

“One hitch in getting the project done,” he divulges, “is the difficulty in getting the benefits. What is the revenue stream for the investor in the Indo-Sri Lanka cable line? We think that, if we can find an investor and buyer in India to buy this 1000 MW offshore park, that will justify the cost of the Indo-Sri Lanka marine cable line. If an investor comes, Sri Lanka can also purchase from India whatever energy it needs during a power shortage or emergency situation, so both countries will benefit. So, based on this one Gigawatt plan, we are trying to get this project done somehow or other.”

Vinod Moonesinghe

Smart Metering

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy is introducing the long awaited Smart Metering system, as a method of reducing electricity generation costs. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) needs to reduce its high-cost peak power load, and hence wants to shift the customers’ consumption pattern to off-peak hours.

It needs a smart grid as a means to  stabilise the supply from intermittent renewable power sources. Sri Lanka has about 150 MW in wind power and 150 MW in solar energy and the Government intends to increase the renewable energy share by 2030.

A smart meter is an electronic device that records consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less and communicates that information back to the electricity supplier, for monitoring and billing. It is able to communicate with the central system, and can gather data for remote reporting, and so differs from automatic meter reading.

“Every detail of the power consumer can be linked to the central system through a smart grid,”says Power and Renewable EnergyMinistry Secretary Suren Batagoda.“For that, the entire country shouldhave a control software system linkedto every household. So we must buyabout 6 million meters and network allthe country to one place, and an ERPsystem for bill payment.”

Smart meters are beingmanufactured by Ante Leco MeteringCompany (Pvt) Ltd in Sri Lanka. Established in Bandaragama, in2008, Ante Leco Metering Companyis a joint venture between LankaElectricity Company of Sri Lanka, SriLanka’s second grid operator (whichowns 70% of the subsidiary) andZhejiang Ante Metering Company Ltdof China, the joint venture partner.Its new ISO 9001:2008 and ISO IEC17025:2005 certified factory, designedfor a capacity of 500,000 energy metersproduction per annum, targets the restof the SAARC region markets as well.

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