Options available for reducing the demand for fossil fuels

President’s targets for shifting to renewable energy


By Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri
(continued from yesterday)
Future demand for fuels in different sectors

The President’s manifesto clearly says that adoption of renewable energy is in respect of hydro and (other) renewable energy together would account for 80% of the overall energy mix by 2030. The reduction is clearly applicable not only for power generation but also for overall energy generation including power, industries, transport, commercial and household sectors. In order to plan such a reduction, it is necessary to have an idea of the country’s demand for overall energy in 10 years hence, that is in 2030. Such a long-term forecast of energy demand has been made regularly only in respect of the power sector.

The Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat has published in 2014 a report on Utilization of Natural Gas in Sri Lanka (http://www.prds-srilanka.com/pdfs/InitialNaturalGasUtilizationRoadMap-SriLanka.20151005_English_ver-8_2016.pdf) (authored by the writer). This report has worked out the possible future demand for energy from fossil fuels in different sectors up to 2040, part of which is given in Table 4. These were determined by extrapolating the past time variation of energy demand in each of these sectors other than for power sector. Data for power sector were taken from CEB’s Long Term Generation Expansion (LTGE) Plan for 2013-32. It was assumed that business-as-usual (BAU) technologies will be in place during the forecasted period. It is seen that between 2019 and 2030, the demand for fuel for transport and power will be nearly doubled under BAU conditions.

Demand for biomass in 2030

Since the above projections do not cover renewables, these are worked out separately. The EBS gives consumption data of biomass in industries and in households and commercial (HH&C) sectors up to 2017. These data applicable from 2005 were extrapolated up to 2030 using forecasting facility in Excel sheet and are sown in Fig. 1. These data show for household and commercial sector a peak around 2010 and thereafter a decline which could be attributed to the increasing penetration of LPG for domestic cooking. On the other hand, industries shifting to biomass from fuel oil for thermal energy generation on economic grounds show a continuous increase of biomass consumption in industries. By 2030, biomass consumption in HH&C sector is expected to drop to 5,210 kt (82.9 PJ) while the industry consumption is expected to increase to 6,060 kt (100 PJ), under BAU scenarios. Overall, there will be a slight decline in biomass consumption from 11,800 kt in 2017 to 11,270 kt in 2030. It is to be noted that these data have a wide margin of uncertainty.

According to Table 2, (yesterday) the RE contribution in 2017 has been 45% which means additional 35% of thermal energy will have to be shifted to RE for meeting the President’s target today. Assuming the same pattern of energy consumption will prevail up to 2020, shifting from RE share of 45% to 80% will have to be achieved within the next 10 years in order to meet the President’s target. Obviously, this has to come from the transport and power sectors which comprise significant share of fossil fuels.

In order to plan such a shift, it is necessary to have an idea of the possible demand for energy in these two sectors up to 2030. In the case of the power sector, CEB prepares biennially a 20-year Long-Term Generation Expansion (LTGE) Plan, but there is no similar plan prepared in other sectors other than what was worked out by the writer as given in Table 4. There has been a Megapolis Transport Master Plan (MTMP), 2016 prepared for the period 2020-2035 by the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development. However, there are no projections available in the report on the fuel demand in the future for transport. According to the writer, there are several options available for reducing the demand for fossil fuels in the transport sector.

Options in the Transport Sector for

shifting to RE

Some of the options available for reducing the demand for fossil fuels in the transport sector are given below.

1. One of the proposals made in the MTMP is the introduction of modern low-floor fleet of buses at a cost of USD 663 million. Today, electric buses are getting popular for urban transportation in other countries including India. Already, the SL Transport Board has called for bids for the supply of low-floor air-conditioned buses. It would be desirable if this order is changed to import electric buses of similar capacity. Though the initial cost may be high, the fact that saving on diesel for day-to-day running will make them profitable in the long term. Every bus-depot operating such electric buses should install roof-top solar panels connected to battery chargers enabling operation of these buses at no burden on the grid and with no fuel cost. Once their performance is proved satisfactory, these buses could be introduced to long distance routes for overnight recharging at the destination depot.

2. Electric motor cars of a variety of brands have been introduced to Sri Lanka over the past several years. Several issues such as insufficient charging stations, degraded life time of batteries in Sri Lanka and vacillating fiscal policies by the government have hampered their growth. Some good news is that several reputed auto makers in India have displayed their latest models of electric vehicles at an Auto show being held currently in New Delhi. These models should be more suitable for use in Sri Lanka than models imported from other countries. (http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=218714). If the government grants attractive duty system, and tariff for recharging stations, significant quantities of gasoline presently consumed could be saved by shifting from gasoline vehicles to electric vehicles. The vehicle emission monitoring system will then become redundant.

3. Though Sri Lanka has high potential for solar PV systems and wind energy systems installation both on the NW and North coastal belt as well as in the interior hills, there is reluctancy by the CEB for connecting them to their grid giving various excuses both technical and legal. Hence, a suitable alternative is to operate them as stand-alone systems, connect a cluster of them to a common point, rectify the output of the wind turbines and use the direct current to electrolyze water to generate hydrogen. The output of the PV systems could be arranged suitably to get the required voltage for connecting to the electrolyzer directly. The hydrogen so generated could be stored and distributed for various applications such as transport or generation of electricity as and when required using fuel cells.

4. Today, there are motor vehicles operating with hydrogen both using internal combustion technology and through usage of fuel cells. Distribution of hydrogen could be done in pipelines or in road trucks to load centres such as industrial estates or large hotels or condominium systems or way-side outlets. Today, storage and distribution of hydrogen do not need heavy steel tanks and piping, but could be done using light weight tanks and piping made of composite material. However, proper regulatory system has to be in place to monitor the operations and installations for safety. Such an alternative distribution system is desirable without depending on a single grid which is the monopoly of the CEB.

5. Technology is available today to convert biomass after gasification into a substance called Dimethyl Ether (DME) which could be used as a substitute for LPG and Diesel Oil. Under slight pressure, DME could be liquefied and filled into cylinders similar to LPG cylinders for distribution using the existing infrastructure. If adequate biomass could be sourced, current consumption of LPG as well as diesel oil could be reduced by replacing them with DME either blended or as clean fuel. The efficiency of utilization of biomass could be enhanced very much through his process and the overall consumption of biomass could be reduced. Its production could be done at district level, eliminating the need for transporting the fuel across the country as done now. It will also enhance the rural economy.

6. Last year, the Cabinet declared 2022 as the year of Biomass Energy with the objective of promoting energy generation from biomass. Already, SLSEA is pursuing a project funded partly by UNDP and FAO for "Promoting Sustainable Biomass Energy Production and Modern Bio-Energy Technologies" with the specific objective of removing obstacles to the realization of sustainable biomass plantation, increase of market share of biomass energy generation and adoption of biomass- based energy technologies in Sri Lanka. Currently, a survey is planned to identify land available and suitable for energy plantations. It may be recalled that according to the EBS 2017, Sri Lanka already consumes about 12 million tonnes of biomass annually for energy generation in industries, commercial establishments and households, but its utilization factor is very low. With the formalization of the supply chain of biomass, its share in industries and transport could be enhanced. The SLSEA may extend the current UNDP/FAO project to study the production of DME in detail.

(To be continued)

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