National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India on Friday signed an agreement with Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to jointly set up a solar power plant in Sampur, in Sri Lanka’s eastern Trincomalee district, a decade after a joint coal power project deal was signed and subsequently scrapped.
Confirming the pact, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a tweet Sri Lanka Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, among others, was present at the ceremony, “attesting to the strength of India-Sri Lanka economic partnership for mutual prosperity, including through cooperation in renewable energy.”
The facility will produce 100 MW power, officials added.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government has pledged to harness renewable sources to meet 70% of the country’s energy needs by the year 2030.
In June 2021, India offered a $100-million Line of Credit through the Export Import Bank of India to support Sri Lanka’s efforts to expand solar power coverage. Further, India’s Adani Group in October visited the northern Mannar district to explore possible investments in wind energy projects in the area.
India’s return to a power project in Sampur bears significance, given the controversy around an India-backed project in the area the last time. India and Sri Lanka in 2011 agreed on a joint venture to build the Sampur Coal Power Plant, based on a 2006 agreement among the Government of Sri Lanka, CEB and the NTPC.
While New Delhi nudged Colombo to expedite the dragging project, the Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe administration in 2016 decided to drop the NTPC-backed coal power project, citing its decision to switch from coal to renewable energy in the country.
The coal power project drew wide attention, as it was pitched as NTPC’s first international joint venture, that too in in the strategically located Trincomalee district of Sri Lanka, where India is now jointly developing a World War II-era oil tank farm with Sri Lanka despite considerable local opposition.
The coal project also displaced nearly 800 civil war-affected Tamil families in the area from their lands, many of whom are yet to resettle in their original plots.