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By Wasantha Perera

Secretary/ Ministry of Power


What and Why a ‘National Energy Day’?

Energy is the creator of a modern society.  Our lives revolve around the continuous energy supply, which is made possible by the advanced infrastructure that exists in our cities.  The energy supplied to us through our wall sockets, the flow of fuel to vehicles around, and the massive volume of power supplied through our electricity network to power our industries is crucial to our everyday wellbeing.

Driving the energy sector of the country to efficiency not only marks the success of our economic management, but also the assurance of our future habitability and well-being.  This mission of energy management is no small feat. It requires a collective effort of each and every member within our society. A collective mission to conserve energy opens up enormous possibilities and stimulates creativity among our SMEs.

We celebrate National Energy Day to remember this mission and empower the next generation to be a part of it.  Today is the day dedicated to energy education, energy awareness and energy innovations. It is dedicated to the experts teach the nation how to conserve energy and help them understand its importance. Importantly, today is the day that we show our gratitude to the endless possibilities provided to us through the energy system, and recognize how we preserve it.

What is energy? How energy dependent are we?

For a long time, scientists and engineers thought mechanical energy and thermal energy were two different types of energy that cannot be mixed together. Mechanical energy is the energy in moving objects, and the energy required to move and lift things. Thermal energy is the energy required to generate heat.  In the late 17th century, scientists found out that thermal energy, in fact, can be converted to mechanical energy and vice versa.

Energy comes in so many different forms. We utilize energy to perform motor skills; to throw, lift  heat and  emit light.  Heat, light, sound and electricity are also forms of energy and energy can be converted from one form to the other.  Heat can be converted to mechanical energy and mechanical energy into electrical energy by way of using a generator.  Light energy can be converted to electricity using solar cells.  As we all know, electrical energy is converted to light through a light bulb.  This conversion created a new technology called energy technology.  Today everybody converts all primary energy sources to electricity, transport to the point of consumption and convert it back to the energy form, which is required.

The energy requirement of the world is supplied by various resources that contain energy within them.  Fossil fuels such as crude oil and coal are the most prominent primary energy sources in the world.  Still, the firewood and plant components supply a significant portion of the world’s energy requirement.  Nuclear energy created by the nuclear reactions of radioactive substances, such as Uranium and Plutonium found in our soil, is also a primary energy source of the world. Hydro energy in water stored at heights are used in hydro-power plants to generate electricity.  The light energy in direct sunlight and the wind created by the differential heating of the atmosphere by the sun’s energy provide us with very valuable energy sources.  Energy in ocean currents is also an important modern energy source tapped by undersea generators.  All these are crucial energy sources that supply energy throughout the world.

In Sri Lanka our primary energy supply comes from 53% fossil fuels, 13% solar, wind and hydro and 34% biomass.  28% of this primary energy supply is converted to electricity.  Our industries consume 26% of the country’s energy.  The domestic and commercial sector consumes 41% and 33% by the transport sector.  Total of the energy used for the transport sector is supplied only from fossil fuels.

A slight moment of power failure in our electrical grid system can bring our lives to a grinding halt, which shows the energy dependency of our daily lives.  This applies to our industries and commercial activities as well. The lifeblood of the modern economy is its energy supply.  Therefore, the reliability, stability and sustainability of our energy supply is as important as its affordability.

The energy outlook of our nation is currently in a transitional stage. It is important that we navigate this transition to reduce our carbon footprint and increase our energy security. This can be achieved through a plan governed by a strategic policy and our collective effort.

National energy Policy and its objectives

Sri Lanka’s ‘National Energy Policy’ is a well formed strategy which ensures convenient and affordable energy services for the equitable development of Sri Lanka through a clean, safe, sustainable, reliable and economically feasible energy supply. This Policy is formulated in alignment with the future goals of Sri Lanka, current global trends in energy and the Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. This policy will impact the vast realm of social, economic and environmental spheres and pave the way to realize the vision of Sri Lanka in achieving carbon neutrality and complete transition of all the energy value chains by 2050.

The energy is said to be at a trilemma. Energy equity, energy sustainability and energy reliability, are at a constant battle with each other. The affordable energy is not always clean nor reliable.  Clean energy is neither cheap nor guaranteed to be reliable.  To make the energy supply system reliable, we are compelled to make massive investments towards making energy delivered through systems neither cheap not clean. We must maintain a balance between these three competing ends: equity, sustainability and reliability.  Thousands of researchers in the energy sector and engineering research centers all over the world strive to innovate technologies to find the right balance between equity, sustainability and reliability of energy.  Every energy policy in the world tries to coin their own balancing point.  Our energy policy is no different and tries to balance these three ends through various strategies, such as streamlining our firewood supply, going green, reducing the intensity and increasing the efficiency of our transport energy.

It takes a tremendous effort to provide affordable and accessible energy, while maintaining a high reliability.  The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals identified clearly recognize this trilemma, and have dedicated the seventh goal to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all”. Within our global order, positioning Sri Lanka in the global forum as an example of a country with a green energy supply is a top priority that we care very much about.

Our electricity sector plays a vital role as the energy streamliner and catalizer. In modern Sri Lanka, all energy forms are expected to be converted to electricity and delivered to the point of consumption.  This is not as simple as in any other country due to our massive 34% footprint of biomass.

The government’s manifesto ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor’ has captured the gamut of this concept in a powerful manner to state that ‘Sri Lanka is ranked high among the countries with a large share of renewable energy, with a strong commitment to retain this vital attribute of the nation’s economic resilience in a world of diminishing energy security’. As proven by this global pandemic and its consequences, today it is evident now more than ever, that our energy security, energy reliability and energy sustainability defines our world.

What is our responsibility on economic use of energy

The real question is how we can achieve energy efficiency and sustainability as a nation.

Our individual responsibility and role in this area is similar to our function within a democracy.  The Sri Lankan energy supply can only be affordable, reliable and sustainable if everybody can together to achieve it.

We can identify our energy use among four economic sectors: residential, commercial, transportation, and industrial. Lighting, heating or cooling of buildings, moving vehicles and freight, and manufacturing products we rely on energy. It is projected that Sri Lanka’s energy demand will increase by 5-6% annually. Minimizing energy waste and using energy as economically as possible is the responsibility of every citizen. While my colleagues and various energy professionals dedicate to improving these systems, it is also equally the responsibility of every individual that consumes energy to contribute to this collective mission by ensuring careful and economical use of energy in their day to day life.

The National Day is a perfect moment to reflect on our values and appreciate how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go.

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change.

The leader adjusts the sails”

-     Famous writer John Maxwell

Let’s adjust the sails and lead this voyage.