CEB Long Term Generation Expansion Plan unnamed plants
|This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Sri Lanka and coal|
The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is the largest electricity company in Sri Lanka. Long-term generation expansion planning studies are carried out every two years by the Transmission & Generation Planning Branch of the Ceylon Electricity Board, Sri Lanka.
The 2013 study proposed 11 coal plants totaling 3,300 MW of capacity in the period 2020-2032. The proposed construction plan it outlined was proposed to comprise one 300 MW coal-fired unit every year between 2020 and 2032.
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2020
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2021
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2022
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2023
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2024
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2025
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2026
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2028
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2030
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2031
- 1 x 300 MW coal plant in 2032
In addition, the plan included four 300 MW coal plants built in the "Southern region," commissioned between 2024 and 2034.
In its April 2017 CEB Long Term Generation Expansion Plan report for 2018-2037, CEB compared two scenarios for coal, one in which future coal power was limited to 1,800 MW of supercritical capacity commissioned from 2023 to 2032, and one in which no coal capacity was commissioned through 2037. In an initial recommendation to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), CEB found the least cost option for Sri Lanka would be to build the 1800 MW of coal capacity.
In July 2017 the government’s PUC overturned the plan, saying CEB had not considered the ‘externalities' – the economic costs of the social and environmental impacts – of the various fuels. The total cost of meeting Sri Lanka’s growing demand with coal increased from $11.9 billion to $15bn when those impacts were considered, compared to $12.4bn for meeting demand without coal. Instead, Sri Lanka's PUC said it plans to add 3.1GW of new renewable energy and 5.4GW of oil and gas generation through 2037. The plan may mark the end for new coal generation in Sri Lanka, given the country’s pledge under the Paris climate accord to add no new coal power to the system after 2030.
However, in December 2017 it was reported that the government was considering building two coal power plants each with capacity 600 MW, one in Trincomalee and the other at Norochchole. The proposals were mentioned in a 2017 joint cabinet paper (63/2017/PE), after the LTGP for 2017-2038 was approved.
In May 2018, the Sri Lanka Cabinet approved a policy paper detailing the energy mix for the country's future electricity generation. It stated 30 percent of Sri Lanka electricity generation will be sourced from coal, 30 percent by Liquefied Natural Gas, 25 percent by large hydro, and 15 percent from furnace oil and renewables. The Cabinet paper does not detail the megawatt which would encompass the percentages given.
Despite the push for new coal plants, environmental groups say the already approved LTGP for 2017-2038 currently in force cannot be changed until 2019, according to government policy. The LTGP as it stands included no new coal proposals. According to the groups, "should the ministry need to introduce new proposals, it must wait until 2019 to do so, and seek public comments on all such new proposals. The public, being an energy consumer, has a right to comment on the nature of what they are supplied with for consumption; therefore, giving public opinion prior to the tabling of changes is moreover a consumer right."
In May 2019 the Times Online reported that Cabinet approval had been granted to set up three coal power plants in the country: two 300 megawatt coal plants in Trincomalee and another 300 megawatt coal plant in Norochcholai. No other details are given.
Concerns about including coal in the plan
Shortly after the release of the plan Dr Janaka Ratnasiri, Former Chief Technical Adviser of the Ministry of Environment, described the proposed coal-building program as an “environmentally damaging plan” and impracticable. As the proposed power plants would be based on imported coal they would need to be located on the coast and would need adequate land both for the plant and to dump up the waste coal ash. Ratnasiri estimated that if all 16 of the proposed plants were built there would be over 1.235 million tonnes of ash collected annually from the 16 plants.
“The enhancement of the concentration of particulates at ground level could be determined by carrying out dispersion modelling and local expertise is available to carry out this task. Regrettably, CEB has failed to get this exercise done. An enhancement of particulates in air will increase the risk of people exposed being subject to respiratory ailments, particularly the elderly and children. The government will have to spend billions of rupees more for the treatment of these people, but this cost has been ignored when working out the so called “least cost” options. For people in these provinces who are already suffering from kidney disease, it is nothing but falling from the frying pan to the fire,” Ratnasiri said. “Sri Lanka has gazetted the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) Standards and it is essential that these standards are not violated. The LTGE Plan has not addressed the issue of how the ambient air quality will deteriorate with the installation of so many coal plants.”
Ratnasiri said the CEB's report narrowly focussed on the costs of power generation but not the total economic cost. “What has been included is the cost to the CEB only, but what should have been included are the costs both to the CEB and the government. The damage caused to the environment as well as to human health has not been considered in the Plan, this too is a cost. It is estimated that over 4,500 tonnes of coal ash will be collected a day from all the 16 plants. Their safe disposal will cost an enormous amount. In addition to this direct cost, there are hidden costs caused by the leaching of heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, arsenic and also radioactive substances from the ash dumps into the water table. None of these issues has been considered in the Plan,” he said.
However, Additional General Manager of the CEB, M C Wickremasekera, dismissed suggestions that the proposed plants would release significant amounts of mercury, nickel, chromium and zinc, claiming that the imported coal currently used did not contain measurable amounts of these elements.
R Anil Cabraal, Director, KMRI Lanka (Pvt) Ltd and Board Member, Energy Forum of Sri Lanka raised concerns about the economic consequences of the proposed coal building plans. "The risks and high costs the country faced due to over dependence on hydro power generation and then oil was significant. There is a need to avoid similar concentrations with coal," he said. "From a macro economic perspective coal over dependence also contributes to an adverse balance of trade," he said.
Imported coal, which is denominated in US dollars, would become more expensive if the Sri Lankan rupee deprectiated, “Already, the expansion plan assumption of exchange rate of LKR 114 per USD has been exceeded, as the exchange rate today is about 15 percent higher at LKR 131 per USD, thus, further increasing the cost of coal electricity,” Cabraal said.
Wickremasekera defended the economics of coal and invoked the intermittency of solar. “Prices of all commodities will increase in the long run. However, our next option is petroleum and that is a much higher cost than coal, as we have economically harnessed all available resources. Hence, after considering all other options, we decided to opt for coal. As far as other renewable power sources are concerned, solar is a rather uncertain energy source. For instance, if solar produces 500 MW, then on a day that there is cloud cover it could reduce to nothing at all. We must have an alternate source of energy to meet the demand. So, under these conditions we have opted for the most viable option,” Wickremasekera said.
Articles and resources
- "Long Term Generation Expansion Plan 2013-2032," Ceylon Electricity Board, October 2013, page 8-2, A7-16 (Annex 7.6)
- "SC informed coal power plant will not be in Sampur," Colombo Gazette, September 13, 2016
- "Long Term Generation Expansion Plan 2015-2034," Ceylon Electricity Board, July 2015, page E-5
- "Long term generation expansion plan 2018-2037," Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), Apr 25, 2017
- "No coal in Sri Lanka’s PUCSL approved long-term power generation plan," Lanka Business Online, July 20, 2017
- "Sri Lanka plans no new coal plants until at least 2037," Climate Home, August 4, 2017
- "Sri Lanka’s power development – Government in the reverse gear?" The Island, December 17, 2017
- "Environment organisations’ response to cabinet proposal for two new coal power plants in Sri Lanka," Daily FT, Dec 20, 2017
- "Cabinet approves Super Critical Coal for Sri Lanka," Daily News, May 12, 2018
- "Cabinet approves proposal to set-up three coal power plants in the country," Times Online, 29 May 2019
- Camelia Nathaniel, CEB on a coal spree', Sunday Leader, December 8, 2013.