Towards self-sufficiency in power
This week the second and final stage of the
Kerawalapitiya power plant was commissioned. It now adds 300 MW
of power to the national grid.
Two outstanding achievements in completing the project in
record time should be mentioned. One was that the project was
completed at a cost below the estimated amount. The other was
the hundred percent utilization of local engineering talent for
Since the fratricidal war has ended Sri Lanka would be
entering a period of development. That means the demand for
power would increase even at a greater pace. Already it is said
to increase at a rate of 10 percent per year.
The necessity of attaining self-sufficiency in this vital
sphere is, therefore, urgent. Self-sufficiency would not have
any meaning if the costs of power keep on escalating. For
already the high prices of power has become a major impediment
to growth of industry. High costs of power increases the cost of
production. The result is that locally produced commodities find
it difficult to compete in the international market as cheaper
goods from other countries entering it.
It is necessary to lower costs of production along with
increase in power generation. The Kerawalapitiya project has
taken this fact into consideration. The completion of its second
stage has been accompanied by a reduction in the unit cost of
production of electricity.
Sri Lanka has been depending on hydroelectricity for too long
without augmenting other sources of power. Often lack of
political will and inability to take bold decisions had delayed
the start of identified projects such as the Norochcholai power
plant and the Upper Kotmale power project.
It was after the assumption of office by President Mahinda
Rajapaksa that such bold decisions could be taken and long
delayed projects started at last. The next few years would see
the completion of these projects which would signify
self-sufficiency in power generation. It would also be able to
provide electricity at a lower cost. That would not only ease
the burden of the domestic consumer but would also be a big
fillip to the industrialists in reducing their cost of
Besides the above mentioned projects additional coal power
plants are coming up in the North and East. The development of
natural gas resources of the country would also enhance the
possibility of ensuring cheaper power.
Unlike in the early decades after independence, climate
change has affected rainfall patterns. This has decreased the
capacity for hydro power generation. Also fossil fuel based
power generation would be costlier as those resources are
There is an urgent need to search for alternative sustainable
sources of power generation. In this we could safely depend on
such sources as solar energy and wind. Being an equatorial
island we have an abundant sun and wind.
It is time to plan for a long-term conversion to solar power
and wind power. Though the initial costs are high it is
long-lasting. It could be maintained eternally at minimum cost.
Sri Lanka should spend on R & D in this sphere. It could not
be within the reach of our scientists and engineers. Besides,
there is also the possibility of developing bio-power. What is
necessary is the political will power to invest heavily in the
sphere of alternative sustainable energy and develop both the
technology and human resources required for their use.
Though power is costly in Sri Lanka there is much wastage. It
is sad that adequate attention is not paid to devise ways and
means of eliminating wastage of much valued electricity. At a
time when most countries have switched over to the use of low
consumption CFL lamps for home consumption Sri Lankan households
still use the high consumption incandescent lamps.
The public should be made aware of the need and benefits of
saving power not only in their self interest but also in the