Energy poverty in Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Energy poverty in Sri Lanka

1 August, 2021

Albeit the accessibility to affordable modern energy by itself is not simply an elixir for every issue, involved with the development concerns of the countries in the developing rim, it is crystal clear that it is a mandatory element for the economic, social and human development.

Having no access to affordable modern energy could be treated as energy poverty which has the potential of having a strong impact on the people’s health, productivity and income. Meanwhile, it is pointed out that in a country such as Sri Lanka, energy inadequacy stands as one of the key factors that mitigates the possibility of reaching at the sustainable development goals.

Under these circumstances, three scholarly researches, namely Dr. Manela Jayasinghe of Charles Darwin university, Australia, Professor Eliyathamby Selvanathan of Griffith university, Nathan campus, Brisbane, Australia and Professor Saroja Selvanathan of Griffith university, Australia have conducted a research on energy poverty in Sri Lanka.

The significance of this specific study, conducted by them is that it is the first scientific study which has done a comprehensive and thorough investigation into the prevalence, extent and determinants of multidimensional energy poverty in Sri Lanka.Meanwhile, the article “energy poverty in Sri Lanka”, authored by these three researchers was published in Energy Economics Journal, published by Elsevier.

Decomposition analysis

It is rather significant to note that the researchers have undertaken a decomposition analysis of energy-poverty where they have based on the aspects of gender, age, ethnicity, income group as well as that of the sub- national location. The researchers have used the latest (2016) Sri-Lankan household and expenditure survey data and with which different phenomena such as incidence, intensity, inequality and determinants of energy poverty in Sri Lanka have been examined, by constructing the multidimensional energy poverty index (MEPT).

The researchers have taken the definition of Reddy (2000) on energy poverty and that of the discussion of Sen (2000) on the role of deprivation and capabilities on human wellbeing into account. And also, having been based on those two approaches, this specific study has utilised the multidimensional energy poverty index (MEPT) approach which is an energy poverty measurement derived from the literature on the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) multidimensional poverty.

As this is a comprehensive study, done on energy poverty in Sri- Lanka, the study will undoubtedly give a tremendous and useful insight to Sri Lanka in formulating its post-war development policy agenda.

Apart from that, the study will certainly magnify and improve the renewed policy and research interests as well as the public awareness on the element of energy poverty in Sri-Lanka.


Meanwhile, it is rather encouraging to note that the findings of this research will certainly be beneficial for the policymakers as well as the researchers in other countries in the developing rim, most importantly the developing countries, embattled with wars and internal conflicts. It should be noted that the researchers have been able to address a significant research gap in the context of energy poverty in the post-war developing countries such as Sri Lanka by their systematic and comprehensive analysis on multidimensional energy poverty in Sri Lanka.

The researchers have estimated the MEPI for Sri Lanka at 0.431. Another prominent result, brought out by the study is the fact that the lack of accessibility to the modern cooking fuel that contributes to around 57 percent of the overall MEPI standing as the highest contributor towards the energy poverty in Sri- Lanka.

Moreover, the researchers have distinguish prominent differences with regard to the intensity and incidence of energy poverty by the aspects of gender, age, ethnicity and the income group of the head of the household and by the residential location of the household.

Also, most importantly it should be noted that the researchers have declared that the results of the study also culminated some significant inequalities in energy poverty by the aspects of sub national location as well as that of the income group.

Furthermore, the researches have quite clearly revealed that in Sri Lanka, the energy poor households are not often income poor. Also, they have further noted that in addition to the element of income, energy poverty in Sri Lanka is hugely associated with a vast of various socio-demographic and geographical factors. Moreover, according to the researchers, the findings of this study have drawn several policy insights.

They have noted that ensuring the universal access to electricity across the country with the intention that the households will innately shift in to clear energy for cooking and accept the use of domestic technological equipment then and there is the central aim of the national energy policy.

Biomass resources

Hence, as noted by the researchers the currently imposed energy policy in the country neither takes any provisions for addressing cooking or other asset requirements into account nor makes an attempt to motivate households to switch to clean energy sources. The study has further noted that the lack of motivation, engulfed with the lack of financial resources paves the way for a situation where the interest to adopt “clean cooking options” remains in a somewhat low status in the country. The researchers noted that the situation could be considered as one of the central reasons for the households tend to use the biomass resources for cooking, even when they have got access to electricity and having the ability of being able to afford a transition to a clean source of cooking fuel. The results of this study also have revealed that the lack of access to modern cooking fuel stand as the biggest barrier for the energy poverty prevailing even among the groups with high incomes.

The researchers also have noted that low-income families should be given with a considerable support in the event of transition from a “no-cost or low-cost” fuel to an expensive fuel. Hence, the researchers have argued that in order to facilitate the transition towards clean energy, a tremendous support should be given to subjugate financial and social barriers. Furthermore, as a part of the national energy policy, the researchers have also emphasised the requirement for promoting the use of modern cooking fuel and other household services.

As a part of the national energy policy in Sri Lanka, the researchers have declared that the possibilities of introducing affordable pricing mechanisms, promoting and subsidizing solar energy need to be further explored.

It is of importance to note that the reduction of disparities in energy poverty should be given with a considerable attention while taking efforts for the facilitation of the most vulnerable segments in the society such as households, run by females and estate sector households in order to overcome the challenges, involved with energy poverty.

The policy makers and researchers, notably in the conflict-affected countries in the developing rim and the international aid organisations such as, the World Bank, OECD-DAC donors, and United Nations will be benefitted by the findings of this study in an event of redefining their aid priority sectors in developing countries, the researchers declared.