Sri Lanka scraps NTPC’s plan to build coal plant

The move follows the country’s decision to switch from coal to renewable energy sources

Updated - November 01, 2016 06:27 pm IST

Published - September 13, 2016 10:59 pm IST - COLOMBO

A plan by NTPC to build a power plant in Trincomalee in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, has been scrapped following the country’s decision to switch from coal to renewable energy sources.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Power and Energy on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it would drop its plan to build a coal power plant in Sampur, Trincomalee, after environmentalists raised serious concerns. Officials at the Indian High Commission said they had not heard from the Government of Sri Lanka on the matter yet.

The decision is a virtual blow to the National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) first international joint venture, in which it holds a 50:50 stake with the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

Following concerns over the environmental impact of a coal plant, Sri Lanka has decided to look at options such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), solar and wind power, according to Sulakshana Jayawardena, director-development in the Power Ministry.

The Sampur Coal Power Plant was proposed as a joint venture following a 2006 agreement among the Government of Sri Lanka, CEB and the NTPC. In 2011, the partners formed the Trincomalee Power Company Limited, with the aim of setting up two coal-based power plants with a total capacity of 500MW in the strategically crucial coastal town on the island’s east coast.

Though the coal-powered plant has now been shelved, the Ministry is engaging with the NTPC to explore partnerships using other sources of energy. “If the NTPC is willing, we are open to considering that option,” Mr. Jayawardena told The Hindu on Tuesday.

A Reuters report in May 2016 quoted Sri Lanka’s Petroleum Minister Chandima Weerakkody as saying: “We do not want to hurt India. So President Sirisena in his visit has offered an LNG plant instead of the coal plant,” referring to President Sirisena’s visit to India at that time.

Speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday, a senior official of the TPCL said a joint working group formed by the two countries a few months ago was exploring alternatives. “Sri Lanka has expressed its view. We will abide by what the joint working group decides,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s total installed power generation capacity is currently about 4,050 MW. This includes 900 MW of coal power, 1,335 MW of oil burning thermal power, 1,375 MW of hydro power and nearly 450 MW of non-conventional renewable energy sources. The country aims to increase its capacity to 6,400 MW in another decade to meet its growing demands.

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