Building coal power plants violative of international environmental obligations

Building new coal power plants would be a violation of environmental obligations Sri Lanka has undertaken to uphold in the past, Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice said yesterday.

Withanage told The Island, "For example in 2016 we submitted an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to the UN saying that we will reduce 4% of carbon emission in the power sector by 2030. To achieve emission reduction targets the contribution from the power generation sector is vital. This emission cut will not be possible if Sri Lanka increases its coal power to 1/3 of the installed capacity as proposed by the latest cabinet paper. The world has already understood that there is no clean coal or even if such technology exists it’s not affordable to us. In any case, Sri Lanka has no reason to burn imported dirty coal when we have enough renewable sources," he said.

There were enough reasons to believe that the cost of LNG and the renewables such as wind, solar were rapidly going down and thus should be promoted in the country’s Long-term Energy strategy. Withanage added that some Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) officials claim that generating electricity via coal is extremely cheap. "However, coal is not cheap as the CEB engineers tell you. The PUCSL says a unit cost would be almost Rs.15 even without considering the environmental cost. The way Norochcholai pollutes the ocean, the air, the water table and farm lands, we will need to add at least another Rs. 5 to the cost of production," he said.

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