Solar panels in 20-pct of houses holds could surpass Norochcholai Capacity

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could generate three times the capacity of the Norochcholai power plant through domestic rooftop solar systems, calling for the revitalization of the Suryabala Sangramaya program to create self-sufficient energy production, as a solution for Sri Lanka’s energy crisis, the Solar Industries Association (SAI) said.

In a press conference held on August 25, Secretary of SAI, Lakmal Fernando said that if 20% of Sri Lanka’s 6.5 million plus domestic electricity consumers moved to rooftop solar systems, installing a three kilowatt system per location 3000 megawatts of energy could be added to the national grid, three times the amount generated by the island’s Norochcholai coal power plant.

A 3 kW system would cost roughly 1.1 to 1.3 million rupees today, compared to the 60, 000 to 70,000 rupees it cost last year, Fernando said.

Commenting on the general public’s view on the implementation of solar panel system at homes, the association President, Kushan Jayasuriya solar energy is not as expensive as people think.

“If you look at the average payback, the average price of a solar system is about your monthly billed times around four to five years. In Sri Lanka people spend about 400 to 500,000 on bathroom tiles,”

“It is time people invest in this kind of system as a part of their home, because it is a lifetime investment.”

Installation time of solar rooftop systems ranges from one day to 4 months.

Quick implementation of these systems could eliminate the need for extended power cut times, the association said, noting that several banks had agreed to provide special financial schemes for people who want to purchase such systems.

Sri Lanka is largely dependent on fossil fuels, though a greater amount of hydroelectricity was added to the energy mix in recent times.

“When Sri Lanka originally commissioned the Norochcholai coal power plant, the coal cost per metric ton was under 80 USD,” the association said.

“Today the cost per metric ton is approximately 407USD.”

Despite a 75% increase in electricity tariffs the state owned Ceylon Electricity Board does not have enough projected revenue to cover costs in 2022.

Since the last tariff hike in 2013, diesel, coal and furnace oil prices rose by 255 percent, 550 percent and 365 percent respectively. Prices went up by 225 percent for diesel, 380 percent for coal and 280 percent for furnace oil just in the first eight months of 2022.

Dollar rates have risen by 190 percent between 2013 and 2022, with the government’s foreign exchange policies Sri Lanka rupee depreciated by 80-percent against the US dollar between January and August 2022.

While some measures have been put in place for increased solar generation, the association requested that more home consumers turn to rooftop solar, eliminating the energy dependence of the country.

Fernando said that this would save the government 3 billion USD over the next 3 years which is 6% of the country’s national debt. The Suryabala Sangramaya program which was to add 1000 mW of energy to the grid by 2025 has already added 600 mW to the grid by now.

The association called for a reasonable tariff system to incentivize consumers to switch to solar.

Jayasuriya said that many of the solar farm projects in the country were stalled due to infrastructure difficulties.

“CEB should tender projects where the infrastructure can be provided by the developer at the cost…then most of our problems are solved,” he said.

Recently the state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) awarded a contract to 3W Power Management Ltd to build a solar farm in Trincomalee. (Colombo/ Sep 03/2022)

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