By Jeremy Fernando, MIET (United Kingdom)
The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has announced an ambitious goal of achieving up to 70% of energy production from renewable energy (RE) sources, according to a recently published gazette. While this is a timely and very important GoSL decision, many may wonder if it is achievable. Some may even have doubts about our ability as a developing country where the funding for any new development should come from outside in the form of aid or loans.
However, Sri Lanka has overcome many challenges in the past using ingenious methods and systems, which are unique to us Sri Lankans. Such achievements have made the developed world wonder how we have solved these problems, without their guidance and support. Therefore, meeting the challenge of reaching 70% or more RE by 2030 may not be such a difficult task for us. Among the renewable energy sources available in Sri Lanka, solar energy is the most appropriate in this context as we have more than 6 million houses in the country with more than 75,000 hectares of roofs. These roofs are mostly unused for solar energy production.
Theoretically, we will be able to generate more than 15 GW of energy, covering 50 percent of the available space on the roof with solar photovoltaic panels. Our immediate target of around 2,000 MW of power could be generated using less than 10 percent of the available rooftop space. Is this an achievable goal? While it may seem daunting, it is an achievable goal if we carefully plan the deployment and implement the project in well-managed stages. The first step would probably be to establish a pilot project of 100 houses through existing EPCs (engineering, procurement and construction) in the country. Once the pilot project is successful, deployment plans could be developed using all the information gathered during the pilot project.
Just to compare the development in other countries, France plans to deploy solar on 4 million roofs by 2035, eight times more than the target we are discussing here. Why is the above project so important? This is very important because it could possibly be the most economical and feasible way for the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to avoid a short term electricity crisis and the country could save much needed foreign exchange. As is the case, all power generation in the country has been and will need to be financed by GoSL. Unfortunately, large-scale renewable energy production projects take a long time to implement, and they also require vast resources and investments from the CEB. On the contrary, the proposed project could be financed by the private sector, mainly the electricity consumers themselves.
How will the proposed system work? Now that the hybrid inverters are approved in Sri Lanka, the proposal will be to deploy solar self-consumption systems in the country on a large number of rooftops, where up to 80% of the energy generated by the system will be used by the system owner, in this case the owner or the consumer.
Only 20% of the energy will be sent to the grid, which will reduce the load on the grid and allow large-scale rooftop solar power generation to be a feasible option. Since all of these systems have battery energy storage, they will use the stored energy during peak hours to avoid high electricity costs, which will reduce the peak load of the CEB. Therefore, the CEB will spend less on fossil fuels to manage the peak load, which will save foreign exchange for the country.
Why should consumers adopt solar self-consumption? It is widely seen around the world that solar self-consumption is adopted by consumers because they expect to be energy independent in the future. Although the initial investment cost is significant, consumers prefer solar self-consumption as a long-term strategy to take advantage of free energy from the sun. It is also observed in many developed countries that started using solar power long before us, the feed-in tariff has dropped significantly over the years.
For this reason, it is no longer economical for consumers to sell energy to utility companies during the day. This situation could be improved in Sri Lanka by paying consumers who are able to supply electricity to the CEB during peak hours (6.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.) at a considerably higher tariff; I suggest Rs. 45 per unit. This would allow consumers with more roof space than necessary to generate income from their additional roof space. As such, it will be an attractive proposition for local consumers to embrace hybrid technology, switch to Time of Use (ToU) tariff and practice solar self-consumption, which they are reluctant to do now, in l lack of clear financial benefit. Who will finance the proposed development? This project could be funded through commercial finance agreements through banks and leasing companies where solar power generation systems could be leased to consumers under BOT agreements.
The typical system transfer could be within 5-7 years depending on the size of the system. The income generated by the system during the transfer period should offset the capital cost. Thereafter, the consumer will own the system and enjoy the benefits of free energy. If the consumer wishes to purchase the system directly, such facilities could also be provided to consumers. Funding for large-scale projects could be arranged through banks and other organizations capable of utilizing available international funding sources that are deployed around the world for environmentally friendly and emissions-reducing projects. of CO2.
What are the advantages for the CEB? The CEB will reduce their cost of additional electricity generation, especially during peak hours, which as we understand is one of the key issues for the CEB. As the capital costs of these systems are borne by the consumers they own, there will be no maintenance and other costs for the CEB. In addition, power generation will be decentralized and the power generated will be consumed nearby, reducing the load and the need for CEB to invest in urgent and immediate grid upgrades such as the Smart Grid. The CEB will also be able to use the solar generation systems proposed in the future to establish virtual power plants (VPPs), which large players such as Tesla are currently deploying in countries such as Australia), the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom. United States.
(The author is a renewable energy specialist and the Managing Director of Innovative Smart Solutions (Pvt) Ltd.
He can be contacted at [email protected]).