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Friday December 9th, 2022

Govt officials scheming to reduce unit cost offered to rooftop solar power suppliers, industry reps warn

ECONOMYNEXT – A group of high-level government officials allegedly in cohorts with the “diesel and coal mafia” are planning to reduce the unit cost of electricity offered to rooftop solar power, a collective of solar power industry representatives said.

The move will immediately bring the solar rooftop industry to a standstill, resulting in a large number of job losses, and bring in major barriers to achieving the government’s policy of 80% renewables by 2030, a statement released by the Solar Industries Association warned yesterday.

“We have reason to believe a group of officials supporting the diesel and coal mafia are attempting a conspiracy to disrupt local entrepreneurship in the solar industry and to change the government policy in a subtle way so that they can bring in long term emergency power, at a huge cost to the country. The solar rooftop industry has thus far created 25,000 local entrepreneurs and has created over 10,000 job opportunities, together with economic development of over LKR 40 billion,” the statement, signed by SIA Secretary Lakmal Fernando, said.

Referring to a comment by an unnamed energy expert that the CEB has to increase the electricity tariff unit by nearly LKR 6 per unit to cover the current losses, the SIA statement said: “We want to point out that the CEB can drastically reduce losses in the future by cutting the high cost coal and diesel power generation and increasing the solar powered electricity generation in the country.”

The protection and promotion of the solar power industry will save the country extensive amounts of foreign exchange, and can turn the consumer into a producer (Producer/Consumer) which is essential to the future benefit of the general public and the country, the SIA went on to say, adding that Sri Lanka is not fully exploiting all available opportunities to achieve the country’s solar energy targets due to continued obstacles from various lobbies.

“We would request the government to pay close attention to this issue and save the future of the solar industry,” it said.

The SIA also called for the addition of 200 MW of rooftop solar to the national grid per year to achieve the 80% by 2030 target.

“Currently, 25,000 solar systems supply 270 MW to the national grid. According to government policy, the country should build at least 200,000 rooftop solar power plants adding 2GW within the next 10 years to support the overall target and add another 3GW of power through ground-mounted solar power plants. The aim is to increase the solar powered energy to 5GW by 2030 from 320MW as of now,” the statement said.

According to the SIA, only 270MW of rooftop solar systems and 62 MW of ground-mounted systems have been added to the national grid from 2016 to date.

“Growth at this slow pace will not be sufficient to meet the target set for 2030. Therefore, capacity addition to the grid from solar power should be increased to 200 MW annually, starting from 2021,” it said.

In addition to removing all obstacles for renewable energy, the SIA called for speedy resolutions to the following issues:

  • Delays in approving applications for rooftop solar power
  • Obstacles rooftop solar owners face when apply for loans for solar power
  • Assessment charge of Rs 15,000+ when applying for solar power system loans under the ADB loan facility
  • Prioritising coal and diesel energy

“Sri Lanka spends LKR 22.50 per kilowatt to generate electricity using coal and LKR 37.12 per kilowatt for diesel and oil powered electricity. Global trends clearly show that these prices will increase in the coming years. Seventy percent of Sri Lanka’s total energy cost is paid back to foreign countries as we rely on fossil fuel imports for energy. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) only spends LKR 19.80 per unit to buy rooftop solar power from Sri Lankan citizens. This will create no burden for the economy and will not affect the exchange rate as the money is circulating within the country.”

In 2020 alone, the SIA further said, LKR 17.62 was saved per every unit of oil-fired energy replaced by rooftop solar, resulting in LKR 6.3 billion/USD 34 million in foreign exchange saved.

Noting that the CEB will be able to purchase a unit of land-based large-scale solar power for nearly LKR 10, the SIA statement said the board’s losses over the past years due to imported fossil fuel could have been avoided by developing solar power.

This will have an impact on the entire economy, the statement said, as the CEB stands to lose the opportunity to generate low cost energy from 2GW solar rooftop plants in the next 20 years due to the heavy reliance on fossil fuel-based plants. (Colombo/Jul10/2020)

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Sri Lanka president slams power regulator chief after conflicting with minister

ECONOMYNET – The powers to change the electricity tariff in Sri Lanka is vested with the Minister of Power and not the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL), President Ranil Wickremesinghe told the Parliament.

The minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekara has requested an upward price revision to be implemented in two phases both in January and July next year, saying the recent tariff hike was not enough for the state-run utility provider Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to continue uninterrupted power supply.

However, Jaynaka Ratnayake, the Chairman of the PUCSL had said  the recent tariff hike is enough for the CEB to cover the cost of production and it will not allow another price hike. However, he has said a twice a year price revision is necessary though it should be in April and October instead of January and July.

President Wickremesinghe said the PUCSL chief was opposing the tariff hike due to his personal reasons.

“The power is vested with the Minister and me. I am the one who made the PUCSL act and I know what is in it,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament on Thursday. quoting a letter from the Attorney General which mentioned provisions in the island nation’s Electricity Act.

Accordingly the Act, the PUCSL would be statutorily obliged to give effect to such policy. It is observed that neither the Act nor the PUCSL Act contains any provisions that empowers the PUCSL to change or act invariant of such policy guidelines.

“The Chairman of the PUCSL is misguiding the general public. I have to meet him and see,” Wickremesinghe said.

WIckremesinghe said the Chairman does not want the tariff hike because he owns one of the highest electricity consuming companies.

“He is the Chairman of the Trillium corporation. It is the firm that takes up the most energy”, he said.

The Trillium group is managed by Janaka Ratnayake and he also holds positions as the chairman and CEO of Trillium Property Management & Services Ltd., City Housing and Real Estate PLC, Trillium Residencies Ltd., Computer Care (Pvt) Ltd., and Rent a Comp Services (Pvt) Ltd., and JR Management Consultants (Pvt) Ltd.

“It means when the electricity bill increases, his expenses increase as well”

He said the CEB still has a loss of 300 billion rupees since 2013 and it needs to be covered.

The CEB issue can be solved only in three ways, either printing more money, increasing value added tax or increasing the tariffm, he said. (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

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Sri Lanka President bemoans over inconsistent LNG deals

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe bemoaned over successive governments’ liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal that has brought in all the world powers into the discussion.

Wickremesinghe’s center-right United National Party (UNP) had discussions with India and Japan between 2002-2004 for an LNG project.

“Following dialogues with India and Japan, the UNP government could come to agreements to get two LNG power plants. After we were defeated the successor government, without cancelling those agreements granted it to New Fortress company in USA,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament.

“Thereafter, as they did not like New Fortress, they gave it back to Pakistan and China. So within the same premises, there were China, Pakistan, India, USA, Japan and only Russia was not there.”

“It was wonderful that a world war did not ignited there as there were five main powers in the world.”

“Now there is no LNG or anything here and now they ask me to solve this issue.”

Wickremesighe’s outburst comes as his government is forced to raise tariffs on power prices after successive governments failed to implement cheap and renewable power generation projects.

He said a total loss for the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board since 2013 was 300 billion rupees and a possible drought next year could increase the 2023 electricity cost to 420 billion rupees.

“If it rained, we need Rs. 352 billion while Rs. 295 is required if rained so much to have floods. How are we going to find this money? We would have to print money, but Rupee would depreciate. We would have to increase VAT but it would increase the price of all commodities or to charge it direct.” (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

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Air quality drop forces Sri Lanka to close schools; public warned

ECONOMYNEXT – A rapid drop in air quality in Sri Lanka has forced the Colombo government to close all schools across the country after a deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal, officials said.

The Education Ministry, issuing a special notice on Thursday said, it has decided to close all government schools for Friday, after discussing with the officials in Meteorology Department and Disaster Management Center.

An official said the drop was due to the deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal carrying the air from India.

Due to the depression over South east Bay of Bengal (370 km east of Trincomalee) has concentrated into a cyclonic storm “Mandous” by Wednesday night.

“Cyclone in the Bay of Bengal that is the prime reason for the increase in the pollution load as we receive more wind from India,” H.D.S.Premasiri, Senior Scientist, Coordinator-Air Quality, noise and vibrations at National Building Research Organization (NBRO) told EconomyNext on Thursday.

Officials said there is a likelihood of the cyclone moving west-northwestwards and further intensify into a severe cyclonic storm tonight and cross North Tamil-Nadu, Puducherry and South Andhra Pradesh coast around midnight of 09 th December and the maximum wind speeds will be 70-90 km per hour and can increase up to 90 in sea areas.

“Hopefully, today we can expect normalization in the environment and the effects of the fog will disappear”.

According to the NBRO’s real time Air Quality Index Indicator, the quality of air in northwestern coastal district of Puttalam has dropped drastically and indicated a particular matter (PM) 132, while Kegalle (85) and Mannar (84) were the districts which had next worst air quality.

According to NBRO, Battaramulla, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Kegalle, Mannar and Puttalam indicate a poor quality of air due to higher PM.

“The fog will lead to lung and breathing issues,” Premasiri said.

“So the public is warned to wear a mask when they travel outside. The pollution highly prevails in city areas and has a less impact on the other parts of the areas.” (Colombo/ Dec08/2022)

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