Concerns raised over proposed two new coal power plants

Environmental organiaations in Sri Lanka have raised concerns over the proposal to build two new coal power plants in Sampur and Norochcholai.

Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka, Centre for Environmental Justice, Wildlife and Nature Protection Society and FEO Sri Lanka noted inherent issues and contradictions in the recent joint cabinet paper (63/2017/PE) outlining the diversification of the energy mix in Sri Lanka’s long-term generation plan (LTGP).

“Firstly, as per Government policy, the already approved LTGP for 2017-2038 currently in force cannot be changed until 2019; should the ministry need to introduce new proposals, it must wait until 2019 to do so, and seek public comments on all such new proposals. The public, being an energy consumer, has a right to comment on the nature of what they are supplied with for consumption; therefore, giving public opinion prior to the tabling of changes is moreover a consumer right,” the environmental organiaations said.

The cabinet paper notes in its ‘Background’ section (1.0) that minimizing environmental impacts in the generation of energy is a priority for the country, and reiterates that when deciding on the generation mix, protecting the environment is of ‘utmost priority’.

The environmental organiaations noted that this point is aligned with the assurances Sri Lanka made to the global community as party to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in April 2016, including in the country position paper that, “Sri Lanka will place her development agenda on a fossil fuel free target.

“Nevertheless, later on, the cabinet paper contradicts its previous point, when it allocates 1,200 MW of new power generation to two new proposed coal power plants, ostensibly for the purpose of strategic diversification of the energy mix in order to ensure energy security,” the environmental organiaations said.

The environmental organisations believe that using strategic diversification as a justification for the development of coal power generation in Sri Lanka is heinously damaging to the country’s pledges to the world, and takes Sri Lanka a long step back in a world fast progressing past coal.

“In fact, the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which is part of the Conference of Parties, aims to grow its country membership to 50 by the next UN Climate Summit in 2018, in recognition of coal’s role as the biggest source of carbon emissions in the world. Regrettably, the said cabinet paper uses the term ‘clean coal’, a misnomer without a scientific definition. The term ‘clean coal’ implies higher technologies in coal processing that removes carbon emissions, although in reality the term is merely subterfuge created and popularized by the coal industry itself, in response to anti-coal litigation. To the best of available knowledge and scientific research, CCS and other technologies that ‘clean coal’ implies are still underdeveloped, and this seriously undermines the possibility that coal power plants in Sri Lanka will be clean. SO2, NO, Lead, Mercury and Cadmium are some of the non-carbon pollutants of coal power, and the technology for containing these is also at a nascent stage,” the environmental organiaations said.

They also noted that highly efficient coal plants will still have higher carbon emissions than more environmentally friendly generation methods that the energy mix could include. They say including new coal in Sri Lanka’s future energy mix for the sake of ‘diversification’ is unjustified and only further reinforces the climate change risks and threatens the national climate action programme. (Colombo Gazette)


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