Energy Sector Transformation for a Sustainable, Clean Energy Society

Energy Sector Transformation for a Sustainable, Clean Energy Society

Sri Lanka will embark in a new journey of prosperity which will be anchored on environmental sustainability & regeneration, social empowerment and poverty alleviation. A holistic policy and strategies will unlock the sector potential for social transformation where consumers become prosumers, where energy becomes a path for poverty alleviation through routing of generation income to villages, generate employment and support development. Built on a futuristic sustainability foundation, our actions will focus on decarbonization to become a leader in the global clean energy revolution.

The energy sector is going through a transition globally with the following dominant trends.

  1. De-carbonization of the energy sector coupled with an increased reliance on indigenous energy
  2. Shifting away from fossil fuel based electricity generation towards renewable energy based generation supported by declining costs. Additional technologies such as energy storage support improved power quality and managing intermittency.
  3. Decentralization and democratization of the electricity sector with the emergence of prosumers (solar PV and bio-energy), smart grids and virtual power plants.
  4. Electrification of the terrestrial transportation sector, with maritime transportation moving to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
  5. Technology supported by innovation driving energy efficiency reducing the energy demand

Climate change has emerging as a key concern related to energy. Earth is close to crossing boundaries for a stable climate. Sri Lanka, considered as the 6th most vulnerable nation for climate change, will not reach our potential for prosperity if we continue to suffer from regular droughts, storms and floods. Sri Lanka must take a leading for climate change mitigation setting a pathway leading to carbon neutrality in the electricity sector at least by 2040. Highly polluting and carbon intensive sources such as coal will be replaced by renewable energy sources and natural gas. Setting such a policy will also position us advantageously in the export and tourism sectors.

National energy policies will also integrate energy security. Sri Lanka will develop indigenous and affordable energy resources with emphasis on renewable energy sources. Developing identified deposits of Natural Gas off Mannar basin will advance energy security and retain foreign exchange spent on imported fossil fuels. 

Air quality is an emerging issue with a number of Sri Lankan cities crossing the WHO air quality limits, leading to declining quality of life of citizens. Electricity generation, thermal energy and transportation contribute to declining air quality in Sri Lanka. Future strategies will reduce this burden.

While Sri Lanka has achieved 100% electrification, our electricity network (both transmission and distribution) requires substantial improvement to deliver good power quality. Large parts of the country suffer from voltage variations which lead to reduced life of electrical appliances which hurt the poor people disproportionately. Improvement of power quality will be an important element which will be aided by integrating distributed renewable energy and storage.

The rapid decline of costs of solar PV saw the emergence of the consumer who is also an electricity producer (prosumer). This approach democratizes the sector and distributes the income generation from the power sector also to a wider group of population, from a few organisations at present. Prosumers can also be part of adding energy storage to the grid supporting grid stability and peak demand shifting. 

Rural microgrids supported by distribution and storage will lift rural poor out of poverty and reliance on state subsidies and also help the grid by reducing transmission and distribution losses, reducing network infrastructure investment costs. It will also reverse the funds flow away from the villages by channeling it back to the villagers. is will also serve as the means of income enhancement to the low end consumers  with benefits to the state utility , instead of traditional continuous subsidies <rural microgrids>

Cost of electricity is a concern for the country, and our strategies will focus on providing low-cost electricity. The rapid reduction in costs of renewable energy generation technologies, supporting technologies such as battery storage & control systems will be central to delivering low cost electricity to consumers. Renewables will also insulate our economy from price volatility of fossil fuels and currency risk that comes with imported fossil fuels. Renewable energy costs lower in all geographies in the world including Sri Lanka, India and China. 

In view of the significant investment required for the sector upgrade, private sector investment will be prioritized in generation, storage and grid services (system stability). A shift to renewable sources will also allow the country to access bilateral and multilateral funding along with green investment funds. This will allow state funds to be released to other development needs of the country.

A robust energy sector requires independent regulation and in this regard strengthening the roles of independent regulatory commissions and planning commissions with wider stakeholder participation and accountability is desired.

Sri Lanka’s transportation is increasingly dominated by road based individual transport, which has created a large economic, social and ecological strain. Rapid development and electrification of rail transportation for long distance travel, improvement of bus services with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and bus priority lanes with conversion of the fleet to gas and electric and introduction of Light Railway Transit (LRT) systems for corridors unserved by other modes in the urban areas will be prioritized to address this situation. While availability of punctual, comfortable, safe and economic public transit systems will facilitate the shift from private transport, additional transport demand management measures such as ERP will be introduced to discourage private transport use during rush hours.