200 to 300 HYDROPOWER PROJECTS ON HOLD
By Ravi Ladduwahetty
New President of the Small Hydropower Developers Association, Prabath Wickremasinghe last week said there were 200-300 hydropower projects which had the capacity to add 200-300 Megawatts to the national grid, but had been put on hold due to insular Government policies.
Addressing the 10th AGM of the Association in Colombo, he said these projects were stalled due to the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) halting the issue of Letters of Intent (LOI) and refraining from signing any power agreements. Wickremasinghe, who is also MD of Pacific Hydro Electric Power
(Pvt) Ltd lashed out at the the CEB saying that it had sent the Electricity Act to the Attorney General's Department because of the change of a comma. "If that distortion could be sorted out, the process could be fast tracked", he said. Wickremasinghe also said the Central Environment Authority had earlier stopped approving projects merely because of a protest campaign by a group of selected members of the NGO community and it was only after several rounds of meetings with President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the Minister of Environment that the process recommenced a few months ago.
Another problem had also arisen because of the delay, he said. Due to this, projects had been put on hold and during that period approvals which had been given by the Sustainable Energy Authority ( SEA) had lapsed.
He stressed that there were investors for 22 mega projects for which approvals had been given but were kicking their heels due to the delay. He also alleged that there were certain sections of the Media (Not Ceylon Today) as well who were attempting to sabotage the projects.
"At this rate, there will no development projects in Sri Lanka in either the State sector or the private sector and no investors will come to Sri Lanka", he added.
Wickremasinghe reminded the NGO community and sections of the Media that cutting of the soil and blasting of rock, were a part and parcel of any construction operation strategy. He further reminded that 'Planting' stories that the environment could be disturbed for a mere two years, but that hydropower developers supplied environmentally friendly power for the next twenty years.
While congratulating the Government for the incentives to developers to supply solar power, he said there were a large number of investors who had opted for solar power, largely due to the stagnation of the hydropower industry.
Wickremasinghe also pointed out that there was a demand growth in the industry for over 175 Megawatts of power. He said the supply of electricity would not be reduced by not having hydropower generation, but the tragedy would be that the Government would opt for more expensive options such as thermal, where environmental pollution was more devastating.
Comparing the Hydropower and Solar power industries, he remarked that One Megawatt of Solar Power could generate 1.6 million units per annum while a single hydropower project could generate 3.3 million units per annum. He also said that a solar power project occupied a three acre block of land while hydropower required less than an acre. "Hydropower could be generated throughout the day, while solar power could only be generated in the day time and not at night", he said.
He also said that there were investors who had committed in huge measure for the industry and that they should be protected and safeguarded. "Some of these investors had invested in overseas markets such as Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya and in Laos, Burma and Pakistan.
He urged the minister to intervene to settle the issues of the industry.
MINISTER WANTS EMERGENCY MEETING TO SETTLE INDUSTRY DISPARITIES
Chief Guest at the event, Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, following the comments made by Wickremasinghe in his opening address, said that he would summon an emergency meeting at the first available opportunity to sort out the prevailing industry disparities.
The Hydropower Developers are providing a yeoman service to the industry and to the country. It is important that we generate the much-needed electricity, while we protect the environment and save foreign exchange as well.
At present 50% of our requirement is through coal and thermal power, which accounts for over 40% of all imports.
The minister also said there were three natural ways of generating power and energy- hydro, solar and wind of which, hydro was the oldest.
He admitted that hydropower developers had issues in relation to the environment and had to clear a multitude of hurdles in getting their projects approved. Therefore, it was important for the government to determine what the real issues and other man- made issues really were.
The government must intervene at this stage to solve these issues. "I will have an emergency meeting with the Committee that was elected today at the 10th Anniversary AGM", the Minister remarked.
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