Sri Lanka is looking at a target of one million houses to be installed with solar energy by 2020, said Chairman, Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) Keerthi Wickramaratne. Currently there are only around 12,000 houses using solar energy and those too mainly in the Western Province.
Speaking to Daily News Business he said that currently the government is offering easy payment terms for households to install solar energy to their house roof tops. “In addition the Ceylon Electricity Board is giving a buy back guarantee of solar generated from houses at Rs. 20 per unit for seven years and thereafter Rs. 15.50 per unit for 20 years, guaranteeing a return on investment as well.”
He said that under this system a house which pays an average monthly bill of Rs. 7,000 would only have to pay less than Rs 200 as tier revised monthly electricity bill. Wickramaratne explained that today Sri Lanka which generated 60% of power via hydro is now doing only 10% and buying over 60% of power generated by diesel from private operators spending billions of rupees. In addition they (diesel operators) burn 750 tons of carbon monoxide, to produce one megawatt hour of electricity.
Today 35% of power is being generated from coal and wind power while only 3% of solar is being produced. The government buys a unit of thermal power from private operators at Rs 40 and sells it to houses at Rs 18.
He said that the Minister of Power and Energy has identified this issue and this is why a series of concessions were provided to the private sector to build more solar power plants and also to buy solar power from them at Rs 22 per unit. “Today we see this working as several private operators like LOLC, Laugfs, are using the Hambantota solar energy park to produce solar energy.” The government also maintains a 10 MW solar energy park at Welikanda. Wickramaratne said that globally too solar is being rapidly used even in the Gulf where there is almost free supply of diesel. “By installing more solar power panels to ‘households’ it would also contribute towards helping to lower a huge financial burden of the government and help to narrow the budget deficit as well.
Asked to comment on the support they received from the Electricity Board he said that this is still a gray area. “There seem to be several hidden forces that are stalling the rapid progress of the adoption to solar, citing several unaccepted technical points.”
He said to overcome this they are looking at a modern German technology where the solar power generated from houses could be stored in a hybrid battery where the house becomes self-sufficient from solar.
Govt. institutions to convert to solar energy by 2019
The government has taken a decision to install solar energy in state institutions within two years. “After 2019 all government buildings would be powered by solar energy,” Wickramaratne said.
Currently over 20% of the power consumption is being used by government officers. He said that this would bring about a saving of over Rs one billion each month to the government.
He also said that the government is looking at installing solar powered roofing to houses as a part of the rural electrification process. “Then Sri Lanka can achieve the 100% electricity status for all targets sooner than expected.”