Leveraging blended finance for green development

Ceylon Innovent Chairman Buddhi K. Athauda, a former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to France, talks about his vision for his company and the potential for renewable energy in Sri Lanka. Following are excerpts:

 By Cathrine Weerakkody

Q: What is Ceylon Innovent doing in Sri Lanka?

Ceylon Innovent is a renewable energy provider in Sri Lanka and is part of the European Renewable Energy giant Innovent Group. They have been developing power stations around the world for over 20 years and has its presence in more than 21 countries globally. Ceylon Innovent specialises in the procurement, development, deployment and investment of Solar and Wind projects in Sri Lanka 

Q: What is your strategy for expanding overseas?

 With our vision to accelerate renewable energy adaptation in the region, we have already identified the countries we hope to work with and the initial discussions are underway. We hope to establish our presence in India, the Maldives, Laos, Cambodia, Taiwan and Myanmar over the next few years. 

Q: What is your financing model?

We cater to both residential and commercial projects therefore, we have adopted a hybrid approach when it comes to financing. Under commercial solar, our main interest lies in procurement, development and deployment of medium and large-scale ground-mounted, floating and rooftop solar. We also can cater to both the on-grid and off-grid needs of our commercial clients. On the residential front, we mainly focus on making cost-effective, European quality installation solutions for our clients. 

Outside of that, we also provide CO2 Neutrality consultations to large multi-national conglomerates. We are fully equipped with the required resources and technical expertise to deliver a full-fledged service. In order to accelerate and facilitate the energy conversion drive in Sri Lanka, Ceylon Innovent has partnered with some leading international financial institutes, whereby we are able to provide high-quality, cost-effective solutions to the local market. We are in effect a total renewable energy solutions provider. 

Q: Does Sri Lanka have the engineering skills to take your company into Asia and beyond?

I have been an ambassador for over 10 years, and have travelled the world, wherever you go you find so many capable Sri Lankan expatriates who have succeeded exceptionally well in their professional spheres and made their mark internationally. Therefore, we certainly do have the brains and the capacity to succeed internationally. Our professionals however need to get the right level of exposure to the latest industry best practices from around the world. This is where Ceylon Innovent fits in well. Our passion is to establish ‘A Global Company with a Sri Lankan Soul’ and we want to enable young talent to go global and we have the right mix internationally and locally to do so. 

Q: Is Sri Lanka on track to go green on energy?

Sri Lanka as a member of the Paris Climate Treaty is committed to drive the energy conversion forward and accomplish 70% renewable energy conversion by 2030 and thereafter possibly 100% conversion by 2050. Furthermore, President Gotabaya Rakapaksa’s manifesto, ‘Vistas of prosperity and splendour’ also considers energy transition as a key deliverable. While the policies and the legal framework are in place, we are still lagging behind when it comes to implementation. 

There are several bottlenecks and one such hindrance is the reforms we need to put in place. Other than that, the present financial limitations concerning foreign currency also have affected badly the progress we could have made in the sector. Sri Lanka can certainly benefit from renewable energy investments as it will solve the current and future foreign currency challenges. At the end of the day the energy is been derived from earth’s natural resources that are not finite or exhaustible, such as wind and sunlight.

Q: What is the potential for green finance?

Sri Lanka can provide many opportunities for green investing if we position our country as a hub or a destination for green finance. We certainly need more private sector involvement in this. Also, we need specialists. We need to encourage private sector players to establish partnerships globally, thereby creating a platform where investors can support green initiatives by buying green mutual funds, green index funds, green bonds, or by holding stock in environmentally friendly companies.

Ceylon Innovent can act as a catalyst for this. Therefore, given our commitment to protect our environment and our commitment to the sustainable development goals, a thematic bond, such as green or sustainability bond, could be considered. Bhutan recently made history by successfully issuing its first sovereign green bond. 

(Cathrine Weerakkody ACMA teaches at the University of Buckingham United Kingdom and is a Final Year PhD student specialising in public debt management.)


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