Asoka Abeygunawardana, is the Executive Director of the Sri Lanka Energy Forum and an Adviser to the Minister of Power & Energy. Asoka’s articles on the Energy Forum website clearly outline the challenges facing power generation and energy policies in Sri Lanka today, the result of many years of ill-advised strategic planning, investment and delays in infrastructure construction.

Asoka talks about Sri Lanka’s overwhelming dependence on oil based power generation, and referring to it as a ‘severe crisis’ notes that there isn’t a quick and easy fix for this. Speaking about the transition from a primarily hydro-electric based power generation to what is now a non-renewable fuels (oil, coal) based power generation, Asoka notes that this is not an energy mix Sri Lanka can sustain in the years to come.

With the Meteorological Department forecasting that 2012 will be drier than 2011, the power generation over the course of this year will get much worse before it gets better. And this includes utility costs as well. Asoka address the fall out of the Iranian oil export sanctions and also the possible attack against Iran by Israel, which inter alia has the potential to greatly disrupt oil markets.

Talking of a longer-term, more sustainable energy mix and set of policies, Asoka explores options around renewable and clean energy generation (wind, wave, solar), energy conservation (including introduction of smart grids, smart power metering and LED lights), pumped water storage (to help with non-monsoonal hydro-electric power generation), importing electricity from India and even nuclear power generation two decades hence.

Asoka also talks about the true costs of power generation and passing this on to the consumer, and the complexities of determining tariff bands so that those who consume the least amount of electricity don’t end up essentially subsidising the power generation costs, per unit, brought about by those who consume the most.

The full video is essential viewing if you want to find out more about Sri Lanka’s energy problems today, how they can’t be wished away in the immediate future.

  • yapa

    Dear Mr. Asoka Abeygunawardana;

    Adopting to “Pumped Water Storage System” to generate Electricity in Sri Lanka seems to creates some serious questions about the “context” in which the concept is going to be used and consequently about the productivity of the electricity so generated and hence on the productivity of the total project.

    1. “Pumped Water Storage System” is usually used to utilize the “unavoidably generated surplus electricity” during off peak hours to operate that system by using that surplus electricity to pump water to a higher elevation and then by using that pumped water to generate electricity by sending the water through turbines.

    Do we have “unavoidably generated surplus electricity” during the off peak hours of our country?

    (Usually “unavoidably generated surplus electricity” is generated in “nuclear electricity generating plants” in which the output cannot be increased to meet the peak hour demand from the off peak hour demand in a short period of time. For this reason nuclear plants have to maintain a higher output level than the off peak demand even in the off peak hours. That is how that “unavoidably generated surplus electricity” is generated. Do we have that problem and hence do we have such surplus electricity?)

    Without “unavoidably generated surplus electricity” is it feasible to operate a “Pumped Water Storage System”?

    2. If the “Pumped Water Storage System” is implemented without paying due attention to the fact (1) above, what will be the scenario like, we will analyze and see.

    According to the interview it was indicated that “coal powered electricity” which is the cheapest other than hydro electricity is to be used to operate the “Pumped Water Storage System”.

    We will look into the “productivity” of the electricity so generated and hence on the productivity of the total proposal.

    I will make use of the data given in the Sri Lanka Energy Forum for my explanation.


    At present the annual electricity requirement in Sri Lanka is about 11,000 GWh and the installed power plant capacity is about 2700 MW. This installed capacity consists of 1200 MW of hydro power and 1500 MW of thermal power. The thermal power plants generate electricity by firing coal, Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) and diesel. The cheapest option for power generation is hydropower as it has no fuel cost involved. The most expensive option is diesel and the costs of HFO & coal are in between these two.

    The total electricity requirement in the country is about 33 GWh/day at present. The power requirement varies during the day and the day time (from 6.30 am – 6.30 pm) demand is about 1200-1400 MW. The demand increases and reaches a peak of about 2000 MW during the night from 6.30 pm -9.30 pm. Again it drops to about 800 MW during the night bay which is from 9.30 pm -6.30 am. The utility has the responsibility of providing uninterrupted power supply to this varying daily demand.

    The CEB needs to prioritize and operate the power plants owned by both the CEB and IPPs (Independent Power Producers) to minimize the cost of generation while ensuring uninterrupted power supply to the consumers. During the rainy seasons the hydro power plants are utilized to the optimum to minimize the cost of generation. If those plants are not utilized adequately during the rainy season then ponds and reservoirs spill and water is released without generating power. On the other hand during the dry season the hydro power is used for peaking purposes only to minimize operating expensive diesel power plants. Some of the hydro power plants are used during the day time as spinning reserves to absorb the load fluctuations and hence to stabilize the system. As the peak load is about 2000 MW at present it is not possible to meet the peak demand purely using thermal power plants as the installed thermal power plant capacity is only 1500 MW. The balance should be supplied from hydropower.

    In early 1990’s Hydro power contributed to generate over 90% of annual electricity requirement, however due to increase in demand the situation has changed drastically. Hydro power contribution is now reduced to 40-50%. The 2011 estimated hydro power supply is, about 4100 GWh. At present if the total consumption is to be satisfied using hydro power, then hydropower will be adequate only for 133 days. On the other hand the hydro power alone cannot meet the peak demand as the peak is higher than the installed hydro capacity.

    Currently 90% of power is generated from thermal power plants and the residual 10% is generated from hydropower. The capacity of the coal power plant is 300 MW and it is at present generating about 6 GWh/day. This is about 20% of the daily electricity need. The HFO contributes to generate about 16 GWh/day (50% of total) with a capacity of about 700 MW and the Diesel contribution is about 7 GWh/day (20% of the total) having a capacity of about 300 MW. The balance 4 GWh/day (10% of the total) is generated from hydropower plants. As hydro power is seasonal, the present effective hydropower plant capacity is only about 500 MW. During this period of the year hydro power generation mainly comes from Laxapana Complex (about 3 GWh) as it gets benefitted from the South West monsoon. Kukule generates about 0.5 GWh and the Mahaweli reservoirs collectively generate only 0.5 GWh.



    “The demand increases and reaches a peak of about 2000 MW during the night from 6.30 pm -9.30 pm.”


    “Again it drops to about 800 MW during the night bay which is from 9.30 pm -6.30 am.”


    “the installed power plant capacity is about 2700 MW. This installed capacity consists of 1200 MW of hydro power and 1500 MW of thermal power.”


    “As hydro power is seasonal, the present effective hydropower plant capacity is only about 500 MW.”


    The capacity of the coal power plant is 300 MW and it is at present generating about 6 GWh/day. This is about 20% of the daily electricity need. The HFO contributes to generate about 16 GWh/day (50% of total) with a capacity of about 700 MW and the Diesel contribution is about 7 GWh/day (20% of the total) having a capacity of about 300 MW. The balance 4 GWh/day (10% of the total) is generated from hydropower plants.

    (i).According to above data peak hour demand 2000 MW can be met with the presently available 1500 MW of thermal power and the minimum of 500 MW hydro power (maximum is 1200 MW).

    There is no need of a extra electricity generation system at present.

    (ii). If the generation system is for the future needs (of peak hours, which could be over 2000MW)

    A). We can build another coal powered plant, a cost of a unit of electricity is Rs. 15.00 (the cheapest among fossil fuels)

    — OR —-

    B). We can construct a “Pumped Water Storage System” that operates on the “surplus electricity” generated during the off peak hours “keeping an additional generator or couple of generators powered by FHO or diesel running”.

    Here off peak hour demand 800 MW is met by 500 MW hydro power and 300 MW coal power. The additional electricity required for “Pumped Water Storage System” has to be generated through FHO and Diesel.

    We know that the expenditure for a unit of electricity generated through FHO and Diesel is higher than a electricity generated though coal, therefore the electricity used to operate “Pumped Water Storage System” would be over Rs. 15.00, say it is Rs. 18.00.

    Now we pump water to a higher elevation by using this electricity, and if the efficiency of the pump used in this case is 75% (it is definitely less than 100%), the cost of a unit of electricity produced using this pumped water is RS. 18/75%= Rs. 24.00, at this level.

    Now this water has to be sent though a turbine set up below, the efficiency of which is less than 100%, say it is 80%. Then the cost of a unit generated though the process of “Pumped Water Storage System” is Rs. 24/80%= Rs. 30.00.

    But as I have shown in A). above, we can generate electricity at Rs.15.00 to use during the peak hours, if opted for a additional coal power plant instead of going for the “Pumped Water Storage System”.

    This is an addition of Rs.15.00 that is a loss of Rs.15.00 to the country for each additional electricity unit (generated through Pumped Water Storage System) used during all the peak hours through out the year.

    Considering the huge amount of (additional) electricity requirement during the peak hours, I think loss would run into billions.

    Will Mr. Asoka Abeygunawardana, look into my perception?


    • Sunil R. de Silva

      With regard “unavoidably generated electrictiy” I think we can achieve that in several ways. There are nearly 5.5 million electricity consumers in Sri Lanka if at least 30 per cent of them can be motivated to generate electricity by renewable modes such as Solar and Wind which are getting cheaper day by day, ( at the rate of 2 Kilowatts per consumer through grid tie inverters for net metering systems) we are going to have a surplus of electricity during day time. This will work out 3300 megawatts from renewables. Would not there be a surplus this way. during the day time the water in the reservoirs will be saved.

  • justitia

    Only in sri lanka,politicians are addressed as “honourable” even when they are not present.Sometimes,they address each other as “honourable” even face to face,outside parliament.
    Long ago, in two corporations,this was nauseating when the word was used even in private discussions.I always said ‘minister’ without the ‘H’ word. Many did not like it. I later realised that all of them were appointed/approved by the junior politician & had to be in his good graces!.There was fear that one may sneak on another about the’disrespect’by not saying ‘honourable’!
    This is a sign of the times.
    I also did not ‘Sir’ anyone other than my teachers.
    When I ‘sirred’ my professor in UK,the old man turned around and said,”Why do you ‘sir’ me? I have not yet been knighted!”

    A good interview – I learned a lot.
    Yapa’s comment is excellent – he knows his onions.
    Long ago President Premadasa vetoed the proposed Mawella Coal Power Project, consigning sri lanka to a permanent energy crisis.
    Sri Lanka is also the only country which purchases a commodity – petroleum – on the international market at the cheapest prices,sells it to a captive national market at inflated prices, and manages to incur a huge loss!
    Unbeleivable but true.

    • Sunil R. de Silva

      Why do we address such unscrupulous elements as Honourable? The reason is that we are ourselves not honourable.

  • yapa

    To understand the severity of “the crisis” we have created through “our own intelligence”, please read the following article and watch the excellent series of videos given below. They do not address only the energy crisis, but the crisis as a whole.

    Can our Science and Technology enthusiasts, solicitors and advocates save our grand children from this “civilization”?

    Global Civilisation: The Options

    “This civilisation is the distilled essence of a ten-thousand-year human fascination with technology. It will live or die according to its ability to solve by new technologies the problems it has created by its own past technological successes.

    If we want our great-grandchildren to be happy in 2100 – if we want them even to be alive – then we have to start managing some of the planet’s systems (like the climate system), and to remove ourselves entirely from some of the others. There is no third option.”


    2. The Most IMPORTANT Video You’ll Ever See (part 1 of 8)


    • Sunil R. de Silva

      Mr. Yapa I am willing to join your campaign if you have already begun.

    • Sunil R. de Silva

      Just like any other fossil fuel coal has certainly got a hidden price which every coal advocate and nuclear advocate tends to ignore initially, but comes to grip with the situation when the systems start taking its toll. I mean good dividends.

  • yapa

    If Mr. Asoka Abeygunawardana or somebody is seriously concerned about the crisis and giving it at least a temporary solution, he/she should dig every nook and corner as his head is on fire.

    I offered a particular corner, but no sufficient interest was generate. Can I re-offer it?


  • yapa

    Government’s stand on Water Storage system is that it would bring immense benefits to the country.

    Bid for 3-fold increase in hydropower

    SL to be less dependent on fuel power generation:

    Sandasen MARASINGHE

    The Power and Energy Ministry is taking measures to increase the hydropower generation capacity threefold to insulate the country’s power generation from the fossil fuel crisis and provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity.

    A ministry source said that Sri Lanka has a 1,200 MW hydro power generating capacity and the ministry has planned to set up nine hydropower generating projects, increasing the capacity by another 3,500 MW, drastically dropping the use of heavy fuel in power generation. The source said that the South Korean government which has the best hydropower management technology in the world, has promised to provide the know-how relating to the pump water storage system as well as funds for feasibility tests.


    According to what I have shown above projects would run into losses amounting to billions.

    Therefore it is imperative to assess the projects once again before going for them, to ascertain whether it is 3 bid benefits or losses amounting billions.

    I think highest attention of the authorities should be drawn to this matter.


    • yapa

      Dear Sanjana /Groundviews;

      Considering the seriousness and national significance of the issue, I am ready even to publicly discuss the issue with any authority to substantiate my stance. If the proposed projects are implemented I think it would be a bigger burden to this country than any other loss making public sector ventures prevailing in this country. If this message has not yet been reached Mr. Asoka Abeygunawardana, please draw his attention to the issue.

      I hope you will take this seriously.


      • Will pass on comment and interest in public debate to him.

    • yapa


  • sir, i am interested in knowing more about the energy resources, production consumptionmechanisms and statistics, energy policies – plans – strategies.
    I work at osmania university, hyderabad, india – am professor of geography at the centre for indian ocean studies, and have been working – in a very modest manner , on energy related issues.

  • niroshan silva

    SL electricity board has taken innovative action to reduce electricity consumption around battaramulla, pellawatta area these days. they fluctuate electricity in peek hours which forced to electricity users to unplug there electricity appliances. it happened so frequently in morning hours(6 to 9 am) and evening peek hours (6pm to 10pm) some of sensitive electronic items such as computers been damaged due to this new sick policy. it’s been going around for several days without any action. if this is the situation just next to parliament no wonder what will happen to outstation electricity consumers in sri lanka.

    • Sunil R. de Silva

      This has been happening in outstations right along, even in Hambantota, which is not a sellam place. I have got converted to Solar Power. Every one now has the capacity to do it. We are unnecessarily dependant on their cheap power. Cheap things have no quality.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Sanjana, Editor Groundviews and Readers,

    Subsequent to Mr Yapa’s detailed analysis of the proposals for pumped water storage power generation by the Adviser to the Minister of Power & Energy, Mr Yapa invited the Ministerial Advisor to a public debate.

    It is sad to note that the ministerial advisor ignored both, Mr Yapa’s published comment and the invitation that you passed on to him requesting a public debate 15 months ago on 26.3.2012.

    Pumping water uphill requires energy. The same water coming downhill will never generate the energy expended in pumping, unless the water falls down a greater height than it was originally pumped up hill. A hypothetical example would be pumping the water of Lake Gregory up hill to Pidurutalagala, storing it somewhere and dropping it down on demand to a turbine located at the lowest possible point, if such a point could be located. Possibly the Haputhale gap or Horton Plains with the attendant shear drops could be a hypothetical candidates.

    This type of pumped water storage power generation exists in Japan where it is used to provide peak power demand. But Japan has Nuclear Power stations that can provide the power for the pumps.

    The cheapest source of power is Hydro. This then excludes the use of Hydro generation to power the pumps as we do not have an over supply of it. This means that the power for pumping must come from Fossil fuel.

    Pumped gen cost = Fossil powered Pumping Cost + Water storage cost + Hydro Gen Cost from stored water.

    In other words the unit cost of pumped water storage generation is higher than even fossil fuelled power generation unless the water falls a sufficient vertical height that can offset the additional expenses of pumped storage and provide a significant net cost advantage.

    The operational cost of a fixed speed diesel generator is lower when the generator is run with say 75% of load most of the time than when it runs at 15% load most of the time. This is the only advantage that I see in a pumped storage Hydro generation scheme as envisaged by the Ministerial Advisor.

    As planned, such a scheme would be a white elephant and detrimental to the public interest. But of course it would be lucrative to the contractors and those involved in the contracts.

    Hydro power is a renewable resource along with geothermal, wave power, tidal power, wind power, and solar power. The ministerial advisor would be better advised if he took steps to increase the utilisation of renewable energy similar to what Israel does. Israel’s utilisation of renewable energy is currently about 20%. To this end those who generate their own electrical energy should be encouraged by allowing Net Metering at no cost and govt subsidies in establishing such generation capacity. I believe currently around Rs 60,000 is charged for Net Metering under the guise that special metering is required, when the normal household meter can be used, by allowing it to run in reverse when the house holder feeds excess power back to the grid.

    Here is a video of Net Metering using a normal power meter allowed to run backwards.

    Note the legend in the meter which says “This meter is the property of the Yorkshire Electricity Board”. Hence the question arises as to why the Ceylon Electricity Board charges an exorbitant rate to provide “Net Metering”.

    Here are two more videos of Net Metering using the ordinary Electricity Meter

    This is an extract from the wiki.

    This exported energy may be accounted for in the simplest case by the meter running backwards during periods of net export, thus reducing the customer’s recorded energy usage by the amount exported. This in effect results in the customer being paid for his/her exports at the full retail price of electricity. Unless equipped with a detent or equivalent, a standard meter will accurately record power flow in each direction by simply running backwards when power is exported.

    End extract

    Every analogue electric meter used in Sri Lanka has the ability to run backwards and hence used for accurate Net Metering. It only requires the removal of the pawl or detent that prevents it from doing so, which is a simple modification.

    Hence it is a Crime against the Nation, to discourage Solar / Wind system installation by trumped up excuses and inflating costs of Net Metering.

    Instead of these grandiose schemes of Pumped Water Storage power generation which definitely is not in the Public’s interest, the Ministerial Advisor would be better advised to read an innovative and brilliant method of Hydro Power generation that Mr Yapa has placed in the Public Domain.

    The brilliance of the system lies in it’s simplicity. It does not require expensive storage infrastructure or continuous pumping. It is well within Sri Lanka’s Engineering skills and vastly cheaper than any other method. Hence consultancy fees, kick backs etc are avoided.

    I was fortunate to chance upon the above article of Mr Yapa and would recommend everyone interested in solving the power crisis to read it. I do not want to discuss it here at this point of time as I would be doing an injustice by Mr. Yapa.

    The scheme devised by Mr Yapa has very far reaching affects, not only for power generation but also for Agriculture. As an extreme hypothetical example, even World’s End or the Haputhale gap can be used as the high point of the penstocks supplying water to Power generators located in the valleys below If a suitable water source can be found even at a lower level than World’s End or the Haputhale Gap.

    I do hope that you Sanjana, would see the need to arrange a panel discussion on National TV and if possible use your good offices to short circuit the red tape and the Mafia that a past minister alluded to and bring it to the notice of the highest in the land.

    • Dear Off the Cuff;

      Thank you very much for drawing attention of the Groundviews and Sanjana about my proposal. As many who have know how about Science (and technology) you too have identified the significance of the proposal.

      As I have mentioned in my blog in response to a comment of yours I sent the proposal to Prof. Winston Mendis through e-mail and he endorsed the significance of the proposal. Following is the reply he sent to me regarding my proposal.


      Winston Mendis

      Apr 9

      to me
      Dear Mr. Senarath Yapa

      Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your article. It is indeed an excellent submission of facts.

      I hope if you forward this to a right person definitely there will be a positive outcome.

      Kind regards.

      Prof. Winston Mendis
      (I have attached your file with new formatting)


      It is over one year after I have applied for patent rights, for my proposal however, recently my wife went to patenting office to inquire about it and an officer has told her that there seemed no fault in the proposal, but it was in the process of approval.

      This is the type of interest paid by politicians and bureaucracy of this country towards genuine efforts by people of this country. Really I cannot run after these people forever to make them drink water as I too have to earn something feed my family. I know even if they accept my proposal I would not be benefited as usual.

      Several years back I pointed out a shortcoming in the VAT formula used to levy the Value Added Tax, and with much deliberation the government accepted it through the annual Budged. Rectification of formula earns several billion rupees each year to the government coffers but the only benefit I got from it was an “urgent commendation letter”, from the Secretary to the Treasury, Dr. P.B.Jayasundera. Then the Finance Minister called me to the Ministry and took a photograph of mine along with him and published it in a daily news paper.

      I think no recognition or return to anything god done in this country. I wasted my P.R. received from Canada staying in my “motherland”.

      Thanks Off the Cuff again. If Sanjana can draw somebody’s attention to my proposal and somebody benefits from it, I will appreciate it.


  • Sunil R. de Silva

    Dear Mr. Asoka Abeygunewardena, Do you see that solar and wind power generation is getting cheaper all over the world. For example; Highest quality solar panels are getting cheaper as they are mass produced in China. But most of our local solar companies are selling a Kilowatt at Rs.300,000.00 for net metering systems. I have got a net metering system installed, I am fully satisfied with its performance. I have 2.25 KVa on my roof top. I do my cooking and EV charging in addition to normal household requirements. So my recovery period will be about 3 years, at that very high cost. Bigger systems are really cheaper. Don’t we have some kind of solution if we further promote net metering systems with excess units payback system. I mean can’t the utilities pay the consumer real prices for what he generates so that many will be tempted to generate more power by using renewable sources. Out of the 5.5 million consumers at least if 25 per cent consumers opt to go for net metering with (at least 2 KVA per consumer, which will come to around 1,000,000×2=2000,000; is n’t it coming to nearly 2000 megawatts of installed capacity) excess generation will it be a huge burden on the existing grid. Do we have to introduce expensive modifications to the grid. Some banks have already started schemes on low interest rates. Communities and co-operatives can join the band wagon. It is easy to get the people to invest in it when the payback is substantial. What is the percentage of safe renewable energy mix in our grid. Please let me know, President, Neethishakthi Foundation.