Time for Sri Lanka to move from the Hydrocarbon age to the age of Electricity
Posted on March 23rd, 2022

Harvey Perera 

Currently, we are using hydrocarbons for all our energy needs. We use it for our transportation, for cooking, and production of some of the electricity. Due to global warming, it has become imperative that we start using renewable energy instead of hydrocarbons for our energy consumption. If we switch to electricity we can start switching our tuk-tuks, cars, trains, buses and cooking to electricity.

Most of the switching can be done by giving the correct tax incentives to consumers to switch to electricity. If it becomes cheaper for a household to use electricity for cooking they will do so gladly. We will be also rid of the problem of exploding gas cylinders and having to lug those heavy tanks home. It is the same with cars and tuk-tuks. It is a matter of providing the right incentives for people to switch. In Sri Lanka most of the distances are small. It will be easy for current electric vehicles which are manufactured to be used for transport since most of them have a capacity to travel about 200-300 miles on a charge. Some of the newer vehicles give even more. This means setting up charging stations in every town in the country. Again this can be done by the private sector if the right incentives are provided.

There is an added advantage in switching to electricity for transport since there will be less noise and air pollution when we switch to electric vehicles. I understand we cannot do it overnight and will have to be done gradually as our cars are wearing down. The maintenance on cars will be much less since there are very few moving parts in an electric car compared to a gas-powered car. There are supposed to be around 30,000 moving parts in a gas-powered car whereas the number of moving parts in an electric car will be about 10 at most. With the development of battery technology, each home can be independent of the grid and be self-sufficient in electricity needs for the home and for charging the car. This means no power cuts and it will be less work for the Govt too. There will be a certain part of the population who will need to connect to the grid such as high rises, and buildings that cannot have solar panels on the roof.

The question is where are we going to get cheap electricity? One of the most abundant things we have in Sri Lanka is sunlight and wind. We can get the full benefit from it and get all our energy needs from the sun and wind if we adopt what Germany did a few years ago. In Germany a few years ago, they introduced a guaranteed price for renewable energy for a period of 20 years. The net result is now Germany is leading in renewable energy. They shut down 84 coal plants and most of their Nuclear plants. The investment was mostly done by the Private Sector. Why don’t our leaders follow the same model that has worked for the Germans so well? If we do that, we could cut down on the import of coal, crude oil, and diesel, save Forex and solar energy electricity for all our needs such as cooking, vehicles, all powering, etc. In the USA too they give tax incentives for homeowners to install solar panels on the roofs. We need to think out of the box in terms of clean energy instead of using coal plants and diesel generators.

We have a lot of waterfalls and rivers which can be harnessed to generate power. See the article by Mr. Sugath Kulatunge ” Run of the River Hydroelectricity” Posted on February 23rd, 2022. – https://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2022/02/23/run-of-the-river-hydroelectricity/.He has given many examples of rivers that utilize this method which does not involve building dams. There was also another good article in the Island by Mr. Parakrama Jayasinghe “Time to escape from the grip of fossil fuels -“https://island.lk/time-to-escape-from-grip-of-fossil-fuels/“.  In this article he is showing how to use renewable biomaterials to do our cooking very cheaply. There is also a good article in the Island “SOLAR POWER an ALTERNATE ENERGY source” by Mr. Tissa Jayaweera. –  https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/SOLAR-POWER-an-ALTERNATE-ENERGY-source/172-233414.

The Govt needs to appoint a panel of experts to study all these issues and make a long-term policy plan with ideas for tax incentives to bring about the required changes in our consumption of energy and also the generation of energy.  

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