Over 2,600 MW of thermal power by 2020 | Sunday Observer

Over 2,600 MW of thermal power by 2020

Dr. Suren Batagoda
Dr. Suren Batagoda

The country will lose over US$ 200 million a year if it does not go for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) power plants soon to address the power crisis in the country, said Power and Energy Ministry Secretary Dr. Suren Batagoda responding to the the statement by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) that the move to develop 2,700 MW of thermal power by 2020 will be an environmental catastrophe for the country.

“We have used state-of-the-art technology to bring the fuel emission level to zero at Norochcholai. There is absolutely no smoke emitted at the power plant and the story of fly-ash is a fabrication by environmentalists,” Dr. Batagoda said, adding that the ministry will set up five LNG and two coal power plants to meet the national demand for energy by 2020.

Agreeing that the country needs to promote renewable energy such as solar and wind power, the Ministry Secretary said solar and wind are not sustainable given its limitations and the high cost of batteries for solar installation.

"Those who are against LNG and coal are silent about diesel power plants which are harmful to the environment. They must fight against those first,” Dr. Batagoda said.

The CEJ in its statement notes that the Ministry of Power and Energy had submitted a Cabinet paper on April 7, 2019 to develop 2700 MW of thermal power by next year.

The list includes: a 300 MW LNG combined cycle plant in Kerawalapitya by WindForce Consortium, 300 MW LNG combined cycle plant in Kerawalapitiya by Lakdanavi, 300 MW LNG combined cycle plant in Kerawalapitiya with India, 300 MW LNG combined cycle plant in Kerawalapitiya with Japan, 300 MW LNG combined cycle plant in Hambantota with China, 300 MW new coal power plant in Norochcholai, 300 MW new additional coal plant in Norochcholai and a 600 MW coal power plant at Trincomalee.

The Cabinet paper also proposed to develop 750 MW wind power plant in Mannar, Poonaryn and Siyambalanduwa and 1000 MW of solar power by 2025.

It’s a well-known fact that the Norochcholai coal power plants 1 and 2 operate without a Flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) which removes toxic Sulphur dioxide emitted by burning coal. This coal plant also pollutes the people and environment by coal dust and ash. CEJ/IPEN research in late 2018 found that some women at child bearing age living around the Puttalam lagoon had very high levels of Mercury, as high as 15 ppm in their hair.

The Norochcholai coal power plant has been operating without an Environmental Protection Licence for the past two years which is an insult to the Northwestern Provincial Environmental Authority and the Central Environmental Authority.

While the Government taxes even motorcycles for their carbon emission and also conducts emission tests for vehicles, they have failed to monitor and regulate the huge emission that comes from the 900 MW dirty coal power plant.

“The Ministry of Power and Energy has forgotten that Sri Lanka has promised to reduce 4% of the Green House Gas (GHG) emission from the energy sector under the Nationally Determined Contribution submitted to the UNFCCC last year. The above plan will increase Sri Lanka’s GHG emission by more than 30%,” said Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice, Hemantha Withanage.

The CEJ notes that each year 3.7 million deaths are attributed to outdoor air pollution. Coal power is one of the worst air polluters. Over 10,000 families in Norochcholai, Kalpitiya peninsula and in Puttalam are suffering everyday due to coal dust, fly ash, mercury contamination and Sulphur dioxide. Their right to life is denied by the Government and fellow citizens.

Increasing this emission by bringing another 600 MW coal power plant is highly unacceptable. Trincomalee is a equally sensitive site.

It was abandoned in 2016, but Minister Karunanayake wants to bring it back under the shadow of the power crisis which was created by the Electricity Board with the intention to build a coal power plant one day.

“We strongly reject this plan to build more coal power plants in Norochchholai and Trincomalee. We demand that the CEB and Ministry of Power respect the people’s rights and avoid contributing to air pollution and climate change,” the statement added. - LF