Professor Ravi Silva Awarded CBEThe energy sector in Sri Lanka needs major revision, but it must be to a plan to ensure no black/grey-outs and there is stability in the grid to take renewables at scale, said renowned Sri Lankan scientist, Professor Ravi Silva, Director, Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, who has been awarded a CBE for his services to Science, Education and Research, earlier this.
He said “I believe it is entirely possible to move towards 50% solar in a decade with the help of policymakers to make this happen to a credible master plan, integrated to the country’s energy needs.” A CBE which stands for Commander of the British Empire is the highest ranking Order of the British Empire award, followed by OBE and then MBE. It ranks just below a knighthood or dame-hood.
The CBE is awarded to individuals for having a prominent role at national level, or a leading role at regional level and also for distinguished and innovative contribution to any area. Professor Silva received the award for outstanding services to Science, Education and Research over the last three decades, with contributions that extend around the world.
Q: Any plans to develop solar sector/solar pv here in Sri Lanka. In your opinion what is the biggest stumbling block when it comes to research studies here. Are you happy with the energy sector in Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lanka as an island is blessed with a wonderful geology with central hills, surrounded by planar regions extending to the sea. We also have a significant rainfall and a well developed hydroelectricity system in the country, with already established dams to store water that can be converted to electricity. Being situated close to the equator means we can enjoy a maximum solar irradiation, that potentially can provide all our energy needs with a combination of solar, wind and pumped hydroelectricity as storage to run base load.
I gave a talk to the National Trust in July 2019 on: “CLEAN, GREEN AND FREE: SOLAR ELECTRICITY FOR 2035”; where it was shown with the help of minimal disturbance to human settlements, a distributed network of 10 solar farms of around 200 MW each, each taking up in total of 100 Acres can power the nation with the help of the existing hydroelectricity network (this was based on the peak energy demand of 2016 of 2453 MW). The idea being that pumped hydro can be used to ensure the base load is covered, and there is enough solar/renewable capacity to fit the peak power demand during the day via the solar installations.
At the present market costs, with solar being provided to major facilities at less than 2 US cents per kWhr by companies such as 8 minutes, there is no reason to stick to fossil fuels that harm the environment and frankly costs more to the consumer longer term. China produce some of the most economical and best solar modules in the world today. The energy sector in Sri Lanka needs major revision, but it must be to a plan to ensure no black/grey-outs and there is stability in the grid to take renewables at scale. I believe it is entirely possible to move towards 50% solar in a decade with the help of policymakers to make this happen to a credible master plan, integrated to the country’s energy needs.
Furthermore, there needs to be consistency in government policy and alignment of all stakeholders to a common objective or goal such as a realistic 70% renewables target (that includes current hydro). To get private sector involvement at present there needs to be a framework that is clear and transparent. This will encourage FDI in the renewables sector, particularly with potential changes to the current electricity and regulation acts. Without independent regulation in the sector, it is difficult to envisage the consumers seeing the benefits of going green. Maybe an independent PPP for a one stop shop for investment into the power sector may open the doors for more private sector involvement with FDI.
Q: Your dad was an authority when it comes to archaeological studies…are you interested in the study of archaeology?
A: My talk to the National Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka in July 2019 was based on preserving the “heritage” of free light from the Sun to the people of Sri Lanka, so they can enjoy their rights much like the vistas of stupas and archaeological sites given to us by our forefathers. I strongly believe we are defined by the unique culture to which we have been born and blessed in Mother Lanka. Coming from D. S. Senanayake College I passionately believe in “Country before self”, much like many of my brothers at DSS and all citizens.
Sri Lanka can define its destiny and come out of this pandemic stronger and more self-sufficient if we all believed in our nation, and developed our available resources with Sri Lankan ingenuity that is ever present in all sectors. We must believe and trust in evidence based decision making, and put faith in our industry to bring high value products through science and technology to the markets. We must be proud to wear the “Made in Sri Lanka” label on both consumables and technology, and help build a better and more sustainable world for the generations to come.