Wind power project row: SLSEA rejects CEB engineers’ concerns

Apropos our recent news items on generation of wind power in the Puttalam district, the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) said that concerns expressed by a section of the CEB, particularly engineers, were baseless.

The following is the full text of the statement issued by the Director-General of SLESA:

"The wind power development programme, facilitated by the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA), is a part and parcel of the National Energy Policy and Strategies of the GoSL and is a significant contributor to the diversity of energy resources used in power generation.

The GoSL has given SEA a policy target of meeting 10% of our electricity generation from Non-Conventional Renewable Energy (NCRE) sources by 2015.

The Mampuri wind power project which will be inaugurated by the President this month, is the first such project undertaken by the private sector.

The entry of the private sector into small power generation is a result of the difficulty in catering to small plant sizes by the state sector.

It has to be kept in mind, that after commissioning the first ever wind power plant in Hambantota by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) in 1998, all attempts to formulate a commercial scale wind power plant did not succeed.

Even the private sector encountered many issues, ranging from grid interconnection to lack of wind data to proceed froth with a commercial scale wind power project.

However, with the establishment of the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) in 2007) and the introduction of the cost-based tariff regime, the investment climate changed drastically resulting in the attraction of private sector investments to the wind power projects.

On the issue of paying a high tariff to wind power projects, it has to be kept in mind that even though it appears considerably higher than the average consumer tariff, unlike fuel-burning power plants, the tariff remains virtually unchanged till the very end of the contract period of 20 years.

Further, if these projects are on 3-tier tariff, the higher tariff will be paid only during the first 8-year period of the contract and the tariff could become very low in the last tier of the contract, to a level as low as LKR 5.06/kWh in present terms, which is only 30% of the average cost of generation today, even at the prevalent subsidised price paid by CEB for oil used in both private and its own power plants.

We would also like to point out here that similar, if not stronger, objections failed to deter the lone crusader of Sri Lankan hydropower, Eng. D. J. Wimalasurendre, to steer the power generation base from oil-fired plants to hydro power plants.

Even though he did not live long to see the realization of the full potential of hydropower being realised by the Sri Lankans, we hope to see the day when the optimum potential of the wind resource is harnessed for an energy secure Sri Lanka.

"Support from all stakeholders, including the CEB Engineers Union is a dire necessity at this crucial hour to make our journey a less arduous one than one Eng. Wimalasuredra took 60 years ago," the SLSEA statement said.

News Editor’s note: We stand by our position that the country would not benefit from ongoing moves to generate wind power, due to one-sided agreements, reached at the expense of the national interest.

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