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Sri Lanka to become an energy hub in South Asia  

  By  Dr Srimal Fernando  Asia Correspondent

Sri Lanka is the fourth largest electricity producing country in South Asia, behind India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. At the start of the new millennium in 2000, electricity power generation capacity in Sri Lanka stood at around 1,838 Mega watts (MW). By 2010 it had increased to 2,847 Mega watts (MW).

Norochcholai coal power plant of Sri Lanka

The country's energy requirements are met from six different types of resources. These resources include 48 percent from thermal, 45 percent from water and the balance from wind, solar, wood etc. The country’s thermal power sources of electricity are oil, natural gas and coal. The thermal power sector electricity generation is followed by power generation from hydro-electricity. Of the major thermal energy sources petroleum products, natural gas and coal are imported while the rest are renewable energy sources of the country. Sri Lanka’s state owned energy giant Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and Lanka Electricity Company remains the principal players in the field with a total of over four million consumer accounts. China, Japan, the United Kingdom, India and several Scandinavian countries have generously provided valuable financial and technical resources to implement these mega projects in Sri Lanka during the past 30 years.

The Upper Kotmale Dam
(also known as the Upper Kotmale Hydropower Project, or UKHP)

Water is a resource that is found in great abundance in the mountainous region in the south-central part of the country. The climatic characteristic of this part of the country has endowed Sri Lanka with a fair amount of hydro-power potential.  Out of the ten mega hydro-electricity generating plants, the one hundred twenty meter tall Victoria project with eight spill-ways and a crest length of nearly five hundred meters is the largest hydro-electric generating project in the country. It has an electricity generation capacity of nearly two hundred Mega -watts (MW) of power.

Victoria Dam  “ the largest hydroelectric dam in Sri Lanka

Samanala Wewa   (Samanala Reservoir and Dam)

The Samanalawewa with almost hundred meters high and five hundred and thirty meters crest level dam is the second-largest hydroelectric project in the country with four hundred Giga watts (GhW) of annual energy. The Upper Kotmale project also known as the Upper Kotmale Hydro-power Project is the third largest hydro-electricity producing power source. The twelve kilometer long Upper Kotmale tunnel is the longest excavated tunnel in Sri Lanka that delivers water to its power-house. One hundred and fifty five Mega watts (MW) of electric power generation are expected to the national electricity network when the project is completed in few months time. Water is the cheapest source of renewable energy in Sri Lanka, as such to get the maximum use from this source the state is targeting to set up six hundred micro hydro plants that can contribute five hundred Mega-watts of power to the national grid. As a non-conventional renewable energy source the state encourages private companies to install these mini projects especially the ten Mega watts capacity mini hydro electricity plants.

Sri Lanka's principal source of electricity generation comes from thermal energy. As such the demand for thermal energy has seen a large year-to-year increase. As new thermal energy plants come online Sri Lanka has planned a number of large oil, gas and coal electricity generating projects, which could require private sector investment. The Oil Refinery at Sapugaskanda commissioned in August 1969 processes about two million metric tons of light crude oil annually. The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) owned Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery has the capacity to produce 50,000 barrels per day. 

Sri Lanka has identified sedimentary deposits containing natural gas and oil in the Gulf of Mannar. Mannar basin in the Indian Ocean is located in the Northern part of the country which appears to be a promising site for future gas and oil.

Kelanitissa thermal power plant

Kelanitissa Power Station (KPS) was the first gas and diesel powered electricity generating plant established in mid sixties. This plant was upgraded with 115-MW “FIAT” gas turbines to increase its capacity to two hundred mega watts of power.

Chunnakam Diesel Power Plant station in Chunnakam,
Jaffna Peninsula

After the conclusion of the war in the country a 36 Mega watts power plant was set up in Chunnakam in Jaffna peninsula in the north ending one-and-a-half hour power cut that prevailed in the peninsula previously.  The Power and Energy Ministry in Sri Lanka is rehabilitating the 150 kilometer power transmission line from Vavuniya to Chunnakam  in Jaffna peninsula via Kilinochchi sub depot to boost the availability and supply of power to Northern Province of the country. There are twelve thermal power generating plants in Sri Lanka. Most of these thermal power plants have been upgraded over the past several years. The Kerawalapitiya power plant with three hundred megawatts of power is the latest thermal power plant that was added to the national electricity supply line in the country. Using alternative channels to benefit the people of the country the Ministry of Power and Energy commissioned the country's first three hundred Mega-watts coal-fired power plant at Norocholai in Puttalam district last year.

The Hambantota Wind Farm

The other renewable energy sources in Sri Lanka lag well behind that of hydroelectric and thermal power generation sectors. A five NEG Micon M1500-600 wind turbines were set up at Hambantota Wind Farm in South Sri Lanka to accelerate and develop power generation through wind energy. Energy Authority is currently constructing a solar electricity generating park in Buruthakanda in the Hambantota district to make the power generation more environment- friendly.

Sri Lanka's first ever solar power plant Barutha
Kanda in Hambantota.

Sri Lanka’s vision is to provide electricity for all its citizens by end 2012.   During a recently held seminar in Colombo for senior journalists the Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka stressed the importance of conservation of energy by properly managing electricity consumption. The ultimate goal of the Ministry of Power and Energy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to transform Sri Lanka to a energy hub in South Asia following the three ‘E’ s policy energy, economy and environment.




February/March 2020

















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