Interview : Ranjith Siyambalapitiya

How can responsible energy usage among households and industrial entities be encouraged?

RANJITH SIYAMBALAPITIYA: The government has recognised the importance of demand-side management (DSM). Therefore, a presidential task force has been appointed to implement DSM activities based on the DSM action plan. Facilitating the penetration of efficient electrical appliances is an important measure for encouraging responsible consumption among households and industries. For this, the implementation of an energy labelling scheme for major electrical appliances is important. Meanwhile, there need to be market-driven mechanisms, such as buy-back schemes and tax benefits, to encourage a shift from ageing, inefficient equipment to modern, highly efficient equipment.

For industries, it is important to have mandatory energy auditing, energy consumption reporting and specific energy consumption-based reward schemes. Introducing systems and procedures in energy efficiency such as ISO 50001 will also be important. Furthermore, high-calibre energy services companies and soft financing schemes for implementing energy efficiency measures are needed. Creating awareness of sustainable energy practices will also be important. New technologies like smart grids will support this.

Where is foreign direct investment (FDI) needed to help overcome gaps in the energy sector?

SIYAMBALAPITIYA: The entire transmission system is handled by the state-owned utility company, and it requires upgrading to facilitate the connections of new generation plants, especially those that use renewable energy. However, there is a need for FDIs to contribute to boosting generation capacity to meet future electricity demand. Guarantees on such investments can be provided by the Treasury as per the terms of the independent power producers agreement.

In power generation expansion, special attention has been given to renewable energy generation. There are also opportunities for foreign companies to invest in small- to medium-scale renewable energy projects, varying from 1 MW to 100 MW. As per the legal framework, we are supposed to follow a competitive bidding process to select partners to develop such capacities. However, there is significant potential for FDI, as the generation opportunities are attractive.

What are the main forms of alternative energy that you foresee being utilised in Sri Lanka in the future?

SIYAMBALAPITIYA: Solar power is the most important emerging technology in the country’s energy development. Many areas of the country have year-round sunshine, meaning there is good resource potential, and there are both small and medium-scale power plants that domestic and international companies can invest in. In addition, there is a good solar rooftop programme – through which nearly 300 solar installation companies have been established – and a large number of entities, both households and enterprises, have become micro power producers as a result of it.

The next step will see the development of solar parks, where international companies operating in the segment will be able to establish themselves. In terms of absorbing the electricity generated by solar power in the national grid, there will be many areas for extensive research, and testing and laboratory facilities will be required for quality enhancement.

Though not as widespread as solar, there are locations with high wind energy potential. Sri Lanka has also developed expertise in small-scale hydropower, which we can share with other nations. Another alternative energy source, biomass, has great potential because it caters to industrial heat energy demands and power generation, as long as we can provide a good supply chain mechanism and technology advancements. Furthermore, a sea wave pilot project is to be implemented with help from the Finnish government to explore the potential of generating electrical power from waves.