Sri Lanka and Maldives:
Energy status and future outlook
Energy Ministers and Senior Officials of SAARC Countries would be
meeting in Colombo over January 28-29, 2009, to discuss prospects for
regional cooperation in Energy. This article describes the energy
situation in Sri Lanka and Maldives and the prospects for cooperation
with each other.
Sri Lanka's economy grew at a relatively rapid rate in the range of
7-8% a year during the last few years and that growth resulted in a
correlated growth in the energy demand. The energy consumption intensity
in the economy has been improving over the years and this trend is
likely to continue with increased attention paid to energy efficiency
Tourist resort in the Maldives
Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka
The island's population of 21.1 million require to be supplied with
modern form of energy such as electricity and petroleum, in addition to
conventional sources such as biomass. In 2007, the per capita Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis was US$
Energy resources and use
Sri Lanka's primary energy supply is dominated by biomass and its
contribution was 48% of the total primary energy supply of 10 million
tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) in 2007.
The other two significant primary sources of energy supply are
petroleum and hydropower, which contributed 42.5% and 9.5% respectively.
All the petroleum requirements are imported and these imports are
rapidly increasing. Therefore, the import dependence of supplying the
commercial energy needs is extremely high.
Sri Lanka has no proven fossil fuel deposits as at present. Sri
Lanka's entire energy resource development potential is therefore
confined to the presently used indigenous sources such as biomass and
hydropower and other renewable energy sources and to the prospects from
on-going oil and gas exploration efforts. Nuclear energy has been
completely excluded in the present energy sector policies and strategies
and therefore is unlike to make any inroads into the energy supplies in
the foreseeable future.
It is estimated that the off-shore petroleum resources of Sri Lanka
can be about 125 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) in total. But
the feasibility of extracting these resources is yet to be established.
The country presently sources its petroleum requirements in the form
of crude oil and refined products and operates a 50,000 barrel per day
refinery to process crude oil. Petroleum demand grows in the range of
3-5% per year. The burden on the petroleum industry to supply fuel for
power generation would remain high for a few more years, until the
planned coal-fired power plants come into operation.
With the estimated total hydropower potential in the country being
around 2,000 MW, another 650 MW of hydropower capacity is available for
future development. Considering the land area available for energy
plantations and other constraints a total technical potential of 1,200
MW of biomass based electricity generation is possible in Sri Lanka,
subject to technological, environmental and socio-economic
As for the wind resources in Sri Lanka, a combined total exceeding
24,000 MW of technical potential of wind power is estimated to be
available at excellent and good wind resource areas alone. The solar
power potential in Sri Lanka is significant with solar insolation
varying in the range 4-6 kWh per square meter per day.
Sri Lanka stands out among the South Asian countries in two aspects:
the high rate of household electrification achieved (exceeding 80% from
the grid, 2% from off-grid services) and the high cost of electricity
production. With a declared target of 95% of household electrification
to be reached by year 2015, Sri Lanka is moving fast to provide
electricity to all households, either by the grid or through off-grid
For certain districts, the Government has declared a 100%
electrification target. With the new major power plants under
construction (Norochcholai and Upper Kotmale) and several other
lower-cost power plants being planned, electricity consumers in Sri
Lanka should be able to enjoy a competitively priced electricity supply
from year 2011 onwards.
On the renewable energy front, 40% of Sri Lanka's grid electricity
supply was provided with hydroelectricity in year 2007, which too is an
achievement. One tenth of that hydroelectricity was provided by small
(less than 10 MW) power plants built and operated by the private sector,
under the standardised power purchase agreements.
Sri Lanka has declared her intention to reach a goal of providing 10%
of the grid electricity supply from non-conventional sources of energy,
which will be achieved through a mix of small hydro, wind, biomass and
waste-fired power plants. Attractive tariffs have been declared to
encourage the private sector to build renewable energy projects up to
10MW. The remaining medium and large hydroelectric projects will be
built by the Government using various sources of funding.
Energy Policy and Strategies of Sri Lanka (2008) clearly identified
the interventions required in the energy sector during the next 15
years. Increased attention to supplement energy supply with renewable
energy forms with parallel emphasis on energy conservation and
management and related research, development and technology transfer are
identified as strategies to meet the challenges faced by the energy
sector in the country.
Further, the ongoing off-shore oil exploration activities in Sri
Lanka demand bilateral and regional cooperation to address technical as
well as geopolitical issues.
Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean and consists of over 1,000
islands with a total land area of 300 square kilometres. Only about 200
islands are inhabited, with another 80 islands with tourist resorts.
Maldives is a small country with only a population of 386,000 (2008
The population in Maldives grew at an estimated rate of 5.6% in 2008.
The economy also grew at a rate in the range of 7-8% a year during the
last few years. The 2007 per capita GDP of Maldives in PPP basis was US$
4,603. The energy intensity in the economy is determined by the
dominating tourist industry and during last few years, the energy
intensity has been stagnant.
Energy resources and use
99% of the energy needs of Maldives come from petroleum and only
about 1% from biomass. Petroleum requirements are imported and these
imports are rapidly increasing. Therefore the import dependence of
supplying the country's commercial energy needs is extremely high.
Challenges and growth of energy sector
As at present Maldives does not seem to possess any petroleum
resources within its territories. The resource development potential of
Maldives is confined only to the renewable energy sources such as solar
power and wind power. The wind power potential is estimated to be high.
It has a good wind power potential from North Thiladhunmathi Atoll to
Male Atoll. Even in the other southern atolls, a moderate level of wind
power potential is available. Solar power potential is significant with
solar insolation varying in the range 4-6 kWh power square meter per
Maldives, as a country importing its entire commercial energy
requirement, will have many benefits to reap from better regional energy
cooperation and knowledge sharing. Utilisation of wind and solar energy
and energy efficiency will have a significant role to play in the
overall energy sector development in Maldives when moving towards a more
secure and cost effective energy future.
Prospects of regional cooperation
Sri Lanka and Maldives, being importers of all of their fossil fuel
requirements can benefit greatly from energy cooperation in the region.
Such cooperation will increase the security and economy of procuring the
fossil fuel requirements of the two countries.
Cooperation, both in terms of hard investment and soft options such
as knowledge sharing, will have a significant role to play in the
overall energy sector development in the South Asia when moving towards
more secure and cost effective energy supplies.
In the electricity sector, Sri Lanka has already embarked on a joint
study with India to examine the feasibility of interconnecting the power
grids of the two countries.
The prospects for mutual benefits through such an interconnection are
considered to be high, which will be studied in detail. Indian
investments in major power plants too, are being negotiated. In the
petroleum sector, Indian Oil Corporation is already operating one third
of the country's filling stations.
(The writer is Past President of Sri Lanka Energy Managers