7.3 Energy Security

Energy security refers to the availability of an adequate supply of sustainable, resilient energy at an appropriate and affordable price, at the same time being responsive to the demands of a decarbonising economy. We will encourage and incentivise to establishing strong government, business, cooperative partnerships to address energy security challenges.

On the one hand, this involves dealing with timely investments on energy infrastructure in line with sustainable economic development, while focusing on the ability of the energy system to react promptly to sudden supply demand fluctuations. On the other hand, we also need to consider the correlation between national security and energy security. The water-energy-food nexus approach deals with complex resource and development challenges. This approach offers a promising conceptual approach, though its use to systematically evaluating water, energy, and food interlinkages has so far been limited.

Sri Lanka’s economy has moved from a rural agrarian framework to an urbanized service-oriented structure. Its service sector accounts for 62 percent of GDP, manufacturing 29 percent and agriculture 9 percent. Sri Lanka is in the verge of reaching 100 percent electrification, thereby fulfilling the goal of providing access of grid electricity to all its citizens. At the same time, it maintains a low energy intensity of economy. Economic growth and provision of energy accessible to all demand a steady increase in the energy supply capacity. To satisfy this rapidly increasing demand while ensuring environmental sustainability is a key challenge for Sri Lanka.

Energy costs in Sri Lanka are extremely high by international standards. According to statistics, Sri Lanka annually imports 2 MMT (million metric tons) of crude oil, 4 MMT of refined petroleum products and 2.25 MMT of coal, costing about USD 5 billion. These imports provide for about 44 percent of the country’s energy requirements. This amounts to 25 percent of the import expenditure and almost 50 percent of the total export income. Thus, demand on energy exerts an enormous influence on the budget and exchange rates. This poses a high risk to the energy security.

Of the total electricity demand about 40 percent is for domestic consumption, another 40 percent for industry and 20 percent for commerce. Current total installed power generation capacity is about 4,050 MW comprising 900 MW of coal power, 1,335 MW of oil based thermal power, 1,375 MW of hydro power and 442 MW of non-conventional renewable energy sources such as wind, mini hydro, biomass and solar power plants. The high contribution this makes to greenhouse gas emissions needs consideration.

The energy mix for the next 20 years is planned to add coal, natural gas, solar, wind, major hydro, oil, mini hydro and biomass generated power into the electricity generation system with an investment of about $15 billion. This contradicts the pledges that were made to fulfil the basic energy requirements of the country through renewable energy sources. Last year, 28 percent was coal power generated, but in 2030 it will be 48 percent and by 2037 54 percent. The renewable energy proportion diminished from 36 percent to 31 percent in 2017. This emphasis on coal power goes against the aspirations of fighting climate change and the Paris Agreement requirements.

Aligning Sri Lanka with the Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN would contribute to achieving universal access to energy. This will lessen the dependence on fossil fuels and also halve the specific energy use by 2030. Greater cooperation in the energy sector would enhance national energy security, reduce the cost of energy supply, and reduce the negative effects of price volatility. Promoting energy cooperation would be an effective climate change mitigation mechanism. Cross-border energy trade would also minimize the need to build new generation capacity in each country.

However, our vision will be for building a nation self-sufficient in energy without being dependent on imported oil and oil products or contributing to air pollution. We believe that this is a pre-condition for energy security, as we are located in a politically contested zone influenced by the nuclear powers in the region. To realise our vision, we intend to capture the full potential of all renewable and other indigenous resources. Out of the total energy requirement in 2013, about 56 percent was produced from biomass and hydro power sources. However, the country has drifted towards using more diesel for power generation, contrary to the existing policy of incorporating a limit of 10 percent diesel or fuel oil due to the resultant social and environmental harm. Integration of renewable energy to the mix has been totally disregarded.

Nuclear power is expensive. It poses an unacceptable risk to the environment and humanity without addressing the challenges caused by climate change. Nuclear energy may cause less carbon emissions than fossil fuels. However, it produces radioactive waste and causes radioactive pollution all over the world. Dumping nuclear waste will be much complicated and will become increasingly untenable. Using nuclear power is fraught with high risks. Hence, we rule out producing nuclear power in the country.

We recognise renewable energy and new energy technology as priority sectors for our economy. We have vast renewable energy resources that we can harness. Our wind generation will have a strong growth potential, particularly in the coastal areas where there will be significant opportunities for offshore wind exploration. We will make it compulsory standard feature to see continued growth in rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, with significant potential in the commercial and industrial sectors. Solar photovoltaic systems will be rolled out island-wide. Grid augmentation will help unlock the abundant natural resources well into the future.

Another prominent strategy is utilization of renewable energy. Nearly every town in the island has access to sunlight and wind, and the geothermal power from the Earth. Harnessing these sources of renewable energy could offer affordable and plentiful power to everybody. With the new advanced energy storage systems, we believe that we also could become a 100 percent renewable country.

Sri Lanka is yet to properly utilise the abundant solar energy as a power source. The capital cost of solar photovoltaic technology is decreasing and in all residential and commercial building construction, use of solar panels for power generation can be made a standard feature. The central hills of Sri Lanka are rainfed. It provides large volumes of water that can potentially be used as hydropower resources. Due to the verdant landscape, high incidence of solar energy and rainfall of the country, it has a huge potential for producing biomass, simply by converting marginal land to fuel wood plantations and improving productivity of other crop land and home gardens.

Sri Lanka is surrounded by a vast swath of uninterrupted ocean that provides strong wind and ocean wave energy potential. Inhabitants of the island have used wind energy since 300-200 B.C. We will explore using other forms of renewable energy such as wave energy, ocean current energy, geothermal energy and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion – OTEC (Baseload, Dispatchable Renewable Energy) energy. This will help achieve the objective of realising a renewable, affordable and reliable energy supply that will use large-scale renewable energy technology and ensure grid stability for moving away from a carbon-intensive to net zero emissions status by 2040.

If the potential to provide natural gas for power generation in Mannar becomes a reality, then it may provide an opportunity for us to limit the quantities of imported oil. However, appropriate plans for developing LNG infrastructure needs to be made. In principle, we rule out using coal and nuclear plants for power generation. However, this does not exclude the option of buying nuclear generated power from the countries in the South Asian region under collaboration agreements.

We will provide incentives to the business, cooperative and research communities to actively engage them in developing local entrepreneurship and research capacity. We will encourage the use of novel ICT applications such as energy accounting, smart metering and intelligent traffic management. Smart grids will be promoted for effective utilisation of distributed and variable generation from renewable energy sources. We will promote research and development on introducing, adopting and implementing new and emerging renewable fuel sources and efficient energy conversion and end use technologies. We will provide financial incentives and tax benefits to those who nurture nascent technologies.

We will establish a National Energy Authority (NEA) to conduct a National Energy Security Assessment. It will recommend on the manner in which the renewable energy sources can be incorporated with a target of achieving a sustainable renewable power generation within the time frame of a decade. The NEA will also develop a Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP) building upon the work the governments have already done. Through the REAP plan we will empower and engage households, businesses and communities by supporting community energy projects; and ensuring affordable energy supply; ensure our energy system is smart, safe and reliable by advancing energy storage, smart grids and microgrids; creating value through data and other energy innovations; and create jobs, attract investment and grow our economy through boosting the new energy technologies sector.

We will also take steps to establish Cooperative Community Grids for helping residents to manage their energy use and offset the need to build costly new infrastructure. We will invest in a series of smart, microgrid demonstration projects across the island including battery storage and demand management solutions in different locations and network configurations so as to apply grid enhancements for increasing renewable energy uptake. The project will involve solar photovoltaic systems, battery storage systems and demand response enabled device units allowing businesses, households and community centres to reduce or shift their energy use during peak electricity demand events such as extreme hot weather conditions.

Communities play an important role in increasing renewable energy generation by establishing grassroots projects that adopt new energy technologies. We will urgently launch projects ranging from powering primary schools with solar power to transitioning entire towns to one hundred per cent renewable energy. We will also support our communities in this transition by bringing together local people, provincial councils, industry to secure the regional economic future. We will also initiate economic support to go hand in hand with investments in the infrastructure to community needs such as education and health care.

We believe Sri Lanka has the opportunity to grow and develop as a role model in the use of renewable energy and other new energy technologies. We can start building upon by utilising our vast renewable resources and established energy infrastructure. Building collaborative relationships between research and educational institutions, and international and local businesses is critical to capitalising on our capabilities within the renewable energy sector. We will work towards increasing the amount of renewable energy generation and delivering a more resilient system, capitalising on our abundant natural resources and our skilled workforce.

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