Sri Lanka is facing a crunch time in terms of electricity generation as the country faces a strong prospect of a prolonged drought and the resultant drop in water levels in catchment areas of hydropower reservoirs expected to continue. In the wake of the crisis, the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board, Anura Wijepala, last week, said the key utility provider was now planning to re-connect de-commissioned private plants either through extensions of power purchase agreements or outright purchase, to boost stand-by capacity.

The three Independent Power Producers (IPPs) that are now being sought after are ACE Embilipitiya (100MW), Heladanavi (100MW) and Lakdhanavi (22) whose terms had expired in years 2012 and 2015 but were not renewed.

Electricity in Sri Lanka is generated using three primary sources — thermal power (which includes energy from biomass, coal, and all other fuel-oil sources), hydro power (including small hydro), and other Non-Conventional Renewable Energy (NCRE) sources (solar power and wind power).

According to recent Central Bank data, the country’s total electricity generation increased by 5.7 per cent to 8,675 GWh during the first eight months of 2015 from 8,207 GWh in the corresponding period of 2014. Hydropower generation (excluding mini hydro generation) during the first eight months of the year has increased by 57.8 per cent to 2,908 GWh.

“Increased rainfall during the first few months of 2015 raised the share of hydropower in total power generation, although some decline in the share of hydropower was observed during the middle of the year with drought conditions prevailing in the main reservoir areas,” the Central Bank said.

Coal power generation increased substantially by 72.5 per cent to 3,328 GWh during the first eight months, reflecting the enhanced capacity of the Norochcholai coal power plant.
The cumulative effect of increased hydro and coal power generation helped to limit power generation through fuel oil by 59.0 per cent to 1,541 GWh during the first eight months of the year. Meanwhile, generation of electricity through non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) sources, including mini hydro generation, increased by 31.9 per cent to 899 GWh.

energyAccordingly, the share of hydro, fuel oil, coal and NCRE power generation during the first eight months of 2015 stood at 34 per cent, 18 per cent, 38 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.

Sri Lanka’s electricity demand per year is estimated to be at 2300 megawatts with the island’s present generating capacity being around 3900 megawatts.  Electricity consumption in the domestic, industrial, general purpose (including government) and hotel sectors increased by 9.5 per cent, 3.8 per cent, 5.7 per cent and 10.0 per cent, respectively, during the first eight months of 2015 reflecting the continued growth of economic activity.

Thus, the total electricity sales increased by 6.4 per cent to 7,781 GWh during the first eight months of 2015 from 7,314 GWh in comparison to the corresponding period of 2014. Further, the transmission and distribution losses, as a percentage of total generation, stood at 10.3 per cent.

Financial position
Meanwhile, the financial position of Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has reportedly improved significantly during the period as a result of the favourable power generation mix, the Central Bank said. The CEB has reportedly made a profit of Rs.22 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase its profit to Rs.30 billion this year.


Currently, ten large hydroelectric power stations are in operation, with the single largest hydroelectric source being the Victoria Dam. Although a large portion of the country’s hydroelectric resource is tapped, the government continues to issue small hydro development permits to the private sector, for projects up to a total installed capacity of 10 MW per project.

Thermal power
Thermal power stations in Sri Lanka run on diesel, other fuel oils, naptha or coal. The Norochcholai Coal Power Station, the only coal-fired power station in the country, was commissioned in late 2011. The plant has since added 900 megawatts of electrical capacity to the grid. The second and final coal power station, the Sampur Coal Power Station, is under consideration in Trincomalee and is expected to be in-service by the end
of 2017.

Wind power
The first commercial grid-connected wind farm is the 3 MW Hambantota Wind Farm, northwest of Hambantota. Unlike other power sources, power developments from this source, faces many challenges during its development timeline. The government policy limit of 10 MW per wind project also significantly decreases economies-of-scale, further straining such developments.

Solar power
Grid-connected solar power has only recently been introduced. The only operational commercial-scale solar-powered facility is the Buruthakanda Solar Park of 1.2 MW, operated by the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA).

Geothermal power
Geothermal power is under research, although no power stations of this type are operational.

Nuclear power
The CEB has included a 600MW nuclear power plant as an option in its plans for 2031.