Aug 20, Colombo: Sri Lanka can meet its current and future electricity demand by judicial use of renewable energy by 2050, according to a joint study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The report, titled 'Assessment of Sri Lanka's Power Sector -100 percent Electricity Generation through Renewable Energy by 2050', notes that Sri Lanka's demand for electricity is going to increase in the future.
According to the report, by 2050, the country's installed electricity generation capacity needs will increase from the current 3,700 megawatts (MW) to about 34,000 MW. Of this, 15,000 MW will be wind energy and about 16,000 MW will be solar energy. Balance capacity is expected to be met by hydro and biomass based power plants.
Further to addition of renewable electricity generating sources, the study has identified the need to introduce electricity storage solution which should provide instantaneous power of 3,600 MW and energy storage capacity of 15,000 MWh. This will ensure stability of the electricity grid.
Acknowledging this need, Sri Lanka saw an increase in the share of renewable energy (RE) in the electricity mix, when in 2014, the country met its target of generating at least 10 percent of its electricity using renewable energy.
Subsequently, in 2015, the contribution of fossil fuels to the electricity mix decreased, at the same time as a rise in the contribution of both renewable energy and large hydro power.
The assessment indicates that the substitution of imported fossil fuel with renewable energy until the year 2050 provides direct monetary benefits and will reduce Sri Lanka's fuel import bill by about $18 billion cumulatively. The report also identifies the need for structural changes in the retail tariffs of Sri Lanka to warrant financial sustainability of its operations.
The report estimates that total investments to the tune of US$54-US$56 billion will be necessary in the power sector to achieve the 100% electricity generation by renewable energy. Further, it emphasizes the need to develop the ancillary services market in light of these changes in the generation system.
In an endeavor to embrace renewables more fully, Sri Lanka, while attending the 22nd UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Marrakech, Morocco, as part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, pledged to use only RE for electricity generation by 2050.
Priyantha Wijayatunga, Director, ADB's South Asia Energy Division said the ADB has expressed its continuous support to low-carbon development of Sri Lanka and recent proposals including a rooftop solar program and a large-scale wind power project demonstrate ADB's commitment in this regard.
He said the assessment report can serve as a comprehensive example for future utilities globally on how decentralized clean energy services can be governed.
Considering the high costs and technical challenges associated with integrating renewables into the electricity generation mix, especially in terms of ancillary and balancing needs, the report proposes a gradual phase out of fossil fuels from the country's electricity mix.