The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has announced an ambitious target of achieving up to 70 percent energy generation from Renewable Energy (RE) sources, according to a recently issued gazette. While this is a timely and a very important decision by the GoSL, many may wonder whether it is achievable. Some may even have doubts [...]

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Generating more power from renewable energy resources


A large solar power unit in Sri Lanka.

The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has announced an ambitious target of achieving up to 70 percent energy generation from Renewable Energy (RE) sources, according to a recently issued gazette. While this is a timely and a very important decision by the GoSL, many may wonder whether it is achievable. Some may even have doubts regarding our capability as a developing nation where funding for all new development should come from outside in the form of aid or loans.

However, Sri Lanka has overcome many challenges in the past using ingenious methods and systems, that are unique to us, Sri Lankans. Such achievements have made the developed world wonder as to how we resolved such issues, without their guidance and support. Therefore, overcoming the challenge of achieving 70 percent or more from RE by 2030, may not be such a difficult task for us. Out of available RE sources in Sri Lanka, solar energy is the most suitable in this context as we have over 6 million houses in the country with over 75,000 hectares of roof space. These roofs are mostly un-utilised for solar power generation.

Theoretically, we will be able to generate over 15GW of energy, covering 50 percent of available roof space with PV solar arrays. Our immediate target of around 2000MW of energy, could be generated using less than 10 percent of available roof space. Is this an achievable target? Although it may seem daunting, it is an achievable target if we plan the deployment carefully and implement the project in well, managed stages. Probably the first stage would be to establish a pilot project of 100 houses through existing EPCs (engineering, procurement, and construction) in the country. Once the pilot project is successful, the roll out plans could be drawn using all information gathered during the pilot.

Just to compare development in the other countries, France is reportedly planning to deploy solar on 4 million roofs by 2035, which is eight times more than the target we are discussing here. Why is the above project so important? This is very important as this could probably be the most economical and feasible way that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) could avert a power crisis in the short term and the country could save much needed foreign exchange. As is the case, all power generation in the country has been and will have to be funded by the GoSL. Unfortunately, large scale renewable energy generation projects require long time for implementation, and they also need vast resources and investment by the CEB. On the contrary, the proposed project could be funded by the private sector, mainly electricity consumers themselves.

How will the proposed system operate? Now that Hybrid Inverters are approved in Sri Lanka, the proposal will be to deploy Solar Self-consumption systems in the country on a large number of roofs, where up to 80 percent of energy generated by the system will be used by the system owner, in this case the homeowner or the consumer.

Only 20 percent of energy will be sent out to the grid, which will reduce the burden on the grid and allow large scale roof-top solar energy generation a feasible option. Since all these systems are with battery energy storage, they will be using stored energy during peak-hours to avoid high electricity cost, which will reduce the peak-load of the CEB. Therefore, CEB will spend less on fossil fuel to manage the peak load, which will save foreign exchange for the country.

Why should the consumers adopt Solar Self-Consumption? It is widely seen around the world that Solar Self-consumption is adopted by consumers, as they expect to be energy independent, in the future. Although the initial capital cost is significant, the consumers prefer Solar Self-consumption as a long-term strategy for them to enjoy free energy from the sun. It is also observed in many developed countries who started using solar energy well before we did, the Feed-in-Tariff has reduced drastically, over the years.

Due to this, it is not economical for the consumers to sell energy to the power companies, during daytime anymore. This situation could be enhanced in Sri Lanka by paying consumers who are able to provide power to CEB during peak-hours (18.30-22.30) at a considerably higher rate; I suggest Rs. 45 per unit. This would allow consumers with more roof space than needed to generate an income from their additional roof space. As such, this will be an attractive proposition for the local consumers to adopt Hybrid technology, changeover to Time of Use (ToU) tariff and practice Solar Self-consumption, which they are reluctant to do now, in the absence of clear financial benefit. Who will fund the proposed development? This project could be funded by commercial financing arrangements through banks and leasing companies where the solar energy generation systems could be leased to the consumers on BOT agreements.

Typical system transfer could be within 5-7 years depending on the size of the system. Income generated from the system during the transfer period, is expected to set-off the capital cost. Thereafter, the consumer will own the system and enjoy the benefits of free energy. If the consumer wishes to purchase the system outright, such facilities could also be provided for the consumers. Large scale project funding could be arranged through banks and other organisations that are capable of using available international funding sources that are deployed worldwide for projects that are eco-friendly and reduce CO2 emissions.

What are the benefits to the CEB? The CEB will reduce their cost of generating additional power, especially during the peak hours, which as we understand is one key problem of the CEB. As the capital expenditure of such systems are borne by the consumers which they own, there will be no maintenance and other costs involved for the CEB. Also, the power generation will be decentralized, and the generated power will be consumed in the vicinity, which will reduce the load and the need for CEB to invest on urgent and immediate grid upgrades such as Smart Grid. The CEB will also be able to make use of the proposed solar generation systems in the future to establish Virtual Power Plants (VPP), which large players such as Tesla is currently deploying in countries such as Australia), UK and the US.

(The writer is a specialist on renewable energy and the Managing Director Innovative Smart Solutions (Pvt) Ltd.
He can be reached at


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