2018 Rolling blackouts in Sri Lanka!


Global warming is increasing every year and with it associated climate changes that bring up the need to reduce our overall energy consumption or the need to increase energy efficiency. To reduce energy consumption and look at ways of sustainable living and energy saving starts from home. When saving energy, it not only save money but also reduce the demand for such fossil fuels as coal, gas and oil. Going solar is one of the great options available to increase energy efficiency, depending on the location in the island wind energy may be a more preferable option and of late bio-gas from waste is considered as an alternate energy source for power generation. Today there are technologies to reduce electricity consumption and it is an area for developers to consider in their planning enabling the proposed 1,500 day economic plan to yield maximum benefit to the people of Sri Lanka.

Dawn of the 1500 days development plan for Sri Lanka is not far away, with global warming increasing each year that causes climate changes in a country where excess floods and droughts are a regular occurrence; there is the warning of a possible power crisis in 2018, expected, due to the cancellation of the Sampur Coal Power Plant that was planned to commence operation in 2017. Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) provider of electricity to the nation may be forced to introduce a rolling blackout as experienced in the 1990s; a rotational load shedding exercise, where electricity delivery is stopped for non-overlapping periods of time over different parts of the distribution regions in the country. It would impact heavily on the agriculture based economy and with all other post war unresolved constraints makes it difficult for the government to strike a balance between the debt servicing, development, welfare activities concerns and revenue generation; a condition not good for any planned development of a country.

At present, though the Norochcholai coal power plant with dependency on coal imports was made fully operational, is contributing to 42% of power generated. Due to the prevailing drought conditions hydro power generation has come down to 32%, pushing the power generated by import dependent thermal power to 18% and the balance 8% is through renewable energy like solar and wind power. Earlier due to lack of holistic advice from the pros at that time, previous government opted for more coal powered power plants; but later much to the annoyance of the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry, the new government decided wisely not to go ahead with these coal power plants at Sampur following protest on environmental issues from the locals and informed the benefactors accordingly. The Indian Government who was to fund the project has instead agreed to fund a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Power Plant to replace the Coal Powered Power Plant at Sampur.  The Ministry has identified as the best location for its construction and has planned to re-locate the plant to Kerawalapitiya, the project is expected to start in 2018 and be commissioned in 2021. The Sampur site may still be used for a LGN Power Plant for the east province, as mentioned in Northern Breeze post on 15 May 2016. The overall government policy to have a mix energy sources like imported fossil fuels as oil, coal, LNG and local energy sources as hydro, solar, wind, and biogas will give more energy security to the nation and expected to considerably reduce the cost of expensive fuel import.

All this could change in the future, if Oil and Gas exploration in Mannar Basin produce positive results as reported in Northern Breeze post on 23 September 2016. Until such time the need to reduce overall energy consumptions or in simple words, the need to increase energy efficiency cannot be over stressed. It is absolutely necessary to reduce energy consumption and look at ways of sustainable living and energy saving starts from home. The power generating programme launched for the public last month by the President to install roof panel systems and large-scale industrial solar systems would contribute heavily to power generation; it will not only save money but also reduce the demand for the expensive fossil fuels. With the Prime Minister set to announce the 1,500 day economic plan in the coming weeks; all moves are in the right direction with new factories planned to provide jobs to the people while efforts are underway to give the tourism sector a lift and it would be a boost if a nationwide programme is initiated to increase energy efficiency at home, place of work and in service sectors.

Time and again, in developed countries energy efficiency policies have proven to be smart investments that create significant financial returns. These energy savings have allowed them to shut down the oldest, dirtiest power plants—and not build new ones to replace them. Today there are technologies to reduce electricity consumption and in order to get these efficient technologies and measures deployed, need policies and programs that help overcome entrenched, inefficient practices and empower businesses and consumers to make wise decisions and eliminate wasteful uses of energy. Improving the energy efficiency of our homes, businesses, and industries can yield quick, significant, and sustained energy savings, and save consumers and businesses billions in the process.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are said to be the twin pillars of sustainable energy policy and are high priorities in the sustainable energy pyramid. In many developed countries energy efficiency has proved to be a cost-effective strategy for building economies without necessarily increasing energy consumption. In developing countries like Sri Lanka energy efficiency is also a national security benefit because it can be used to reduce the level of energy imports from foreign countries and at the same time help to conserve the domestic energy resources. In industrial settings, there are abundant opportunities to save energy and cost for lighting, fan, and pump systems; electric motors; and in areas such as heating, cooling, office equipment, and appliances including air conditioners. In general, electricity used could be saved with efficiency measures that cost less than the electricity itself. The same holds true for this in home and leaky ducts have remained an invisible energy culprit for years.

The implementation of energy management system in Sri Lanka would result in improved energy performance, provided that each energy user periodically reviews and evaluates their own systems to identify opportunities for improvement and their implementation; it would lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, other related environmental impacts and energy costs through systematic management of energy. Few effective ways for consumers to follow for increasing energy efficiency in the home or workplace are given below:

  1. Buying energy efficient products – Purchasing efficient products is one of simple ways to increase energy efficiency. New electrical appliances such as refrigerators, dryers, washers and other appliances use less energy in comparison to older ones. While purchasing those electrical appliances should look for those rated with ‘energy star’. Smaller items like light bulbs have more energy efficient options.
  2. Reduce standby power – Many of the appliances which include televisions, lamps as well as the phone chargers can continue consuming energy even when it is in off mode. Unplug those appliances when not use or attach them to a surge protector & turn them off when not using it; as this will save energy at the same reduce the electric bill up to 20 percent. This is one effective way to increase energy efficiency.
  3. Reduce air conditioning load by turning up the thermostat control & for most people turn it down during months of hot sunny days not knowing that cool air produced is escaping through the windows. To save this energy could install energy efficient windows that would reduce heat transfer out of the building minimizing the need of air conditioning during rainy days.

The government has already initiated policies and programs that would accelerate the energy efficiency process in the country with many sustainable energy programme as follows:

  1. Going solar by installing solar panels.
  2. Wind energy depending on the location.
  3. Generating Bio-Gas energy from Waste.

Efficient energy use is the goal to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. Accordingly, it would boost the economy if any savings could be made on the good share of the revenue used to meet the cost of expensive fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil used in power generation. Improvements in energy efficiency are generally achieved by adopting a more efficient technology or production process or by application of commonly accepted methods to reduce energy losses. There are many motivations to improve energy efficiency; reducing energy use reduces energy costs and may result in a financial cost saving to consumers, if the energy savings offset any additional costs of implementing an energy efficient technology. All energy consumers in homes, businesses, and industries, should seek expert advice to implement an energy management system that would improve energy performance, which would considerably reduce the amount of costly thermal energy imports into the country to avert the power crisis anticipated in 2018.