Electricity sector in Sri Lanka

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Charts showing the available grid capacity by source (left) and the annual generation by source (right).[1][2][3]

The electricity sector in Sri Lanka has a national grid which is primarily powered by hydro power and thermal heat, with sources such as photovoltaics and wind power in early stages of deployment. Although potential sites are being identified, other power sources such as geothermal, nuclear, peat, solar thermal and wave power are not used in the power generation process for the national grid.[1]


Sri Lanka's first public electricity supply was made available in Colombo in 1895 by Messrs Boustead Bros. The business was soon taken over by the United Planters Co., Who extended it and in 1899 built the Colombo electric tramways. In 1902, the Colombo Electric Tramways and Lighting Co. Ltd. was formed and provided electricity supply until 1927 when the Department of Government Electrical Undertakings (DGEU) was established to control the utility, which had by then been purchased by the Government. DGEU was succeeded in 1969 when the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), a statutory corporation, was established on 1 November 1969 under the Act of Parliament No.17 of 1969.

In 1913 having had his initial proposals on hydro power ignored by the Engineering Association of Ceylon, D. J. Wimalasurendra constructed the first Ceylon's small hydro power station in at Blackpool, between Nanu Oya and Nuwara Eliya, to supply electricity to the Nuwara Eliya town. In 1918, he submitted a paper to the Engineering Association of Ceylon titled "Economics of Hydro Power Utilization in Ceylon", in it he proposed the possibility of hydro power from Maskelioya and Kehelgamuoya capable of lighting 100,000 lamps (114.5 MW) and the concept of developing a national grid. It was only in 1923, that the British colonial government undertake the development of hydro power in Ceylon, the Laxapana Hydro Power Scheme, the construction of which started in 1924 was thus resumed in 1938 and done to the finish. However, it was commissioned as the first hydro power plant of Sri Lankan history in December 1950. Between 1978 - 1985 under the Master Plan of Mahaweli Development Programme added seven hydro power stations to the national grid with a total installed capacity of 810 MW this can be considered as a great leap forward for electricity generation in Sri Lanka [4]

Power generation[edit]

A panoramic view of the Victoria Dam and Reservoir, the largest hydroelectric facility in Sri Lanka.

Electricity in Sri Lanka is generated using three primary sources — thermal power (which includes energy from biomass, coal, and all other fuel-oil sources), hydro power (including small hydro), and other non-conventional renewable energy sources (solar power and wind power):

Installed generation capacity by year (in megawatts)
Source 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Hydropower 1,293 1,316 1,326 1,357 1,379 1,382 1,401 1,584 1,628 1,665
Fuel oil 1,115 1,115 1,115 1,285 1,290 1,390 1,390 1,338 1,335 1,215
Coal 0 0 0 0 0 0 300 300 300 900
Other renewables 3 3 3 3 15 45 50 90 99 152
Total capacity 2,411 2,434 2,444 2,645 2,684 2,817 3,141 3,312 3,362 3,932
Annual generation by year (in gigawatt-hours)
Source 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Hydropower 3,453 4,636 3,948 4,135 3,905 5,634 4,622 3,292 6,926 4,534
Fuel oil 5,314 4,751 5,865 5,763 5,975 4,994 5,748 6,935 3,303 4,306
Coal 0 0 0 0 0 0 1,038 1,404 1,469 3,202
Other renewables 2 2 2 3 27 86 121 171 262 315
Total generation 8,769 9,389 9,815 9,901 9,907 10,714 11,529 11,802 11,960 12,357


Hydroelectricity is the oldest and historically the principal source of electricity generation in Sri Lanka, holding a share of 48% of the total available grid capacity in December 2013 and 58% of power generated in 2013.[5] Hydroelectric power generation has been constantly under development since the introduction of the national grid itself, but its market share is declining because suitable new sites are scarce. Currently, ten large hydroelectric power stations are in operation, with the single largest hydroelectric source being the Victoria Dam. Although a large portion of the country's hydroelectric resource are tapped, the government continues to issue small hydro development permits to the private sector, for projects up to a total installed capacity of 10 MW per project.[6]

The three hydroelectric complexes of Sri Lanka. Use the scrollbar to see the full image.

State-run hydroelectric developments are categorized into three main geographic sectors.

Thermal power[edit]

900MW Lakvijaya Power Station

Thermal power stations in Sri Lanka now roughly match the installed hydroelectric generation capacity, with a share of nearly 49% of the available capacity in December 2013 and 40% of power generated in 2013.[5] Thermal power stations in Sri Lanka runs on diesel, other fuel oils, naptha or coal.[5] The Norocholai Coal Power Station, the only coal-fired power station in the country, was commissioned in late 2011, adding a further 300 megawatts of electrical capacity to the grid. It is currently planned to add an additional 600 MW of capacity to Norocholai in the next half decade. The second and final coal power station,[7] the Sampur Coal Power Station, is under consideration in Trincomalee and is expected to be in-service by the end of 2017.[8]

Wind power[edit]

Turbines of the Ambewela Aitken Spence Wind Farm, the first multi-megawatt wind farm in the Central Province.

The use of wind energy was seen in the country even before 500 BC. The ancient Sinhalese used the monsoon winds to power furnaces as early as 300 BC, making Sri Lanka one of the first countries in the world to use wind power. Evidence of this has been found in Anuradhapura and in other cities.[9]

The development of modern wind farms has been considered by local and international developers for many years. Such developments were largely hampered due to the many obstacles faced in such developments in economics and infrastructure. The first commercial grid-connected wind farm is the 3 MW Hambantota Wind Farm, northwest of Hambantota.

Unlike other power sources, power developments from this source would face many challenges during its development timeline. Poor accessibility to potential sites is the first obstacle in the development of a wind farm. Most key transport routes around the country are too narrow or is constructed with tight turns to support transportation of turbines larger than 600 KW. Constructing wind farms with turbines smaller than the current commercial-scale megawatt-class turbines would prove to be uneconomical due to the high cost incurred during development.

The country is also in a long battle against its poor power grid. The grid, apart from being unstable in most provinces, is only capable of handling a small increases in load, typically limited to a few megawatts. Provinces with poor grids, such as the power grids in the Northern, North Central and North Western provinces needs complete upgrade to support further commercial-scale developments. This factor contributes to a large percentage in development costs for wind farms constructed such locations. The government policy limit of 10 MW per wind project also significantly decreases economies-of-scale, further straining such developments.

Current status[edit]

Despite the many technical obstacles, a few developments totaling 50 MW have been proposed till September 2009.[10] In October 2009, cases were filed over political interference connected with the approving of wind projects, leading to a complete halt in the wind power industry in Sri Lanka.[11] The Ministry made allegations of wrongdoing in allocating energy licences, including the structuring of the wind power tariff.[12] There were also allegations that energy licenses are being sold, similar to how car licenses have been sold.[12]

From December 2009 to March 2010, permits for another 50 MW of projects were issued by the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority, before concerns relating to the issuing of permits were raised again,[13][14] leading to another deadlock in the industry. As of June 2010, issuing of permits for the development of private wind farms were stopped.

In July 2010, engineers at the Ceylon Electricity Board raised further concerns regarding the approval of private wind projects with extra high tariffs, presumably some of the highest in the world.[15] A review of the wind power tariff was expected to be carried out on 12 September 2010,[16] after an agreed postponement.[17]

Solar power[edit]

Grid-connected solar power has only recently been introduced. The only operational commercial-scale solar-powered facility is the Buruthakanda Solar Park of 1.2 MW, operated by the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA).[18]

Geothermal power[edit]

Geothermal power is under research, although no power stations of this type are operational.[19][20][21]

Nuclear power[edit]

The CEB has included a 600MWe nuclear power plant as an option in its plans for 2031.[22]

Power transmission[edit]

Transmission network[edit]

The Sri Lankan electric transmission network consists principally of 132kV facilities, with a 220kV backbone connecting major inland hydroelectric generation to the capital region.
Sir Lanka Electric Transmission System Map

Overhead Transmission Lines
Line No. of Ground Wires No. of circuits Nominal Voltage
Kolonnawa-Athurugiriya 2 2 132kV
Pannipitiya-Ratmalana 2 2 132kV
Biyagama-Pannipitiya 2 2 220kV
Biyagama-Kotmale 2 2 220kV
Kothmale-Kiribathkumbura 2 2 132kV
Kiribathkumbura-Ukuwela 2 2 132kV
Kiribathkumbura-Kurunagala 1 2 132kV
Puttalam-Madampa 1 2 132kV
Ukuwela-Bowatanna 1 1 132kV
Ukuwela-Naula 2 2 132kV
Naula-Habarana 2 2 132kV
Habarana-Old Anuradhapura 1 2 132kV
Old Anuradhapura-Puttalam 2 2 132kV
New Laxapana-Bogawanthalawa Estate 1 2 132kV
New Anuradhapura-Vavuni 1 2 132kV
Embilipitiya-Thimbolketiya 2 2 132kV
New Laxapana-Canyon PS 2 1 132kV
Old Laxapana-Polpitiya 2 2 132kV
Kotmale-Polpitiya 2 2 132kV
Nuwara Eliya-Badulla 2 2 132kV
Old Laxapana-Nuwara Eliya 2 2 132kV
Badulla-Medagama 2 1 132kV
Polpitiya-Seethawake 2 2 132kV
Seethawake-Kosgama 2 2 132kV
Athurugiriya-Thulhiriya 2 2 132kV
Embilipitiya-Hambantota 2 2 132kV
Balangoda-Samanalawewa 2 2 132kV
Balangoda-Rathnapura 2 2 132kV
Balangoda-Deniyaya 1 2 132kV
Matara-Embilipitiya 2 2 132kV
Habarana-Valachchenai 1 1 132kV
Kelanitissa-Biyagama 2 2 220kV

India – Sri Lanka grid interconnection[edit]

The proposed connection involves the linking of the national grids of India and Sri Lanka via Rameshwaram in south India and Talaimannar in north-west Sri Lanka. The project involves the construction of a HVDC connection between Madurai in southern India and Anuradhapura in central Sri Lanka, through the Palk Strait. The link would measure approximately 285 kilometres (177 mi) in length, including 50 kilometres (31 mi) of submarine cables, and would take more than three years to construct. It would be implemented by the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited and Ceylon Electricity Board.[23]

Electricity use[edit]

End-user power tariffs[edit]

The monthly end-user electricity tariffs effective from 20 April 2013 are as follows:

Revised Electricity tariffs effective from 20 April 2013.[24]
User Unit (kWh)/Time range Tariff
Fixed Charge
Fuel Adjustment Charge
(% of Total Energy Charge)
Max. Demand Charge
Domestic (D-1)
(If the consumption is between 0-60 kWh per month)
000-030 3.00 30.00 25 N/A
031-060 4.70 60.00 35
Domestic (D-1)
(If the consumption is above 60 kWh per month)
000-060 10.00 N/A N/A N/A
061-090 12.00 90.00 10
091-120 26.50 315.00 40
121-180 30.50
≥181 42.00 420.00
Religious (R-1) 000-030 1.90 30.00 N/A N/A
031-090 2.80 60.00
091-120 6.75 180.00
121-180 7.50 180.00
≥181 9.40 240.00
General Purpose (GP) GP-1: ≤210 19.50 240.00 25 N/A
GP-1: ≥211 21.50
GP-2: Day (05:30-18:30) 20.50 3,000.00 1,100
GP-2: Peak (18:30-22:30) 25.00
GP-2: Off-peak (22:30-05:30) 14.50
GP-3: Day (05:30-18:30) 19.50 1,000
GP-3: Peak (18:30-22:30) 24.00
GP-3: Off-peak (22:30-05:30) 13.50
Government (GV)
[Note 1]
GV-1: ∞ 14.65 600.00 0 or 25 N/A
GV-2: ∞ 14.55 3,000.00 1,100
GV-3: ∞ 14.35 1,000
Hotel (H) H-1: ∞ 22.00 600.00 15 N/A
H-2: Day (05:30-18:30) 14.65 3,000.00 1,100
H-2: Peak (18:30-22:30) 23.50
H-2: Off-peak (22:30-05:30) 09.80
H-3: Day (05:30-18:30) 12.60 1,000
H-3: Peak (18:30-22:30) 16.40
H-3: Off-peak (22:30-05:30) 8.85
Industry (I) I-1: ∞ 12.50 600.00 15 N/A
I-2: Day (05:30-18:30) 11.30 3,000.00 1,100
I-2: Peak (18:30-22:30) 21.00
I-2: Off-peak (22:30-05:30) 7.00
I-3: Day (05:30-18:30) 10.50 1,000
I-3: Peak (18:30-22:30) 24.00
I-3: Off-peak (22:30-05:30) 6.00
Street Lighting 17.00 N/A

Net metering[edit]

In July 2010, the Ministry of Power and Energy, with the Lanka Electricity Company and the Ceylon Electricity Board introduced net metering, where consumers could generate their own power from renewable sources and credit excess production back to the power utility.[25] While the power utility will not pay back in monetary values irrespective of how much credit a household generates, it allows the transferring of this credit between households.[26] The first solar power facility intended for net metering was commissioned in July 2010.[27]

Entities exempted for electricity-usage charges[edit]

Per Section 21-2 of the Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009,[28] the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka has granted the following entities exemptions in electricity usage:

Entities exempted for electricity-usage charges as of 20 June 2012.[29]
Exemption No. Person/Entity Premises Gazette No. & Date
EL/EX-D/11/001 MAS Fabric Park (Private) Limited MAS Fabric Park, Kurunegala Road, Thulhiriya Extraordinary Gazette – No. 1725/14 28 September 2011
EL/EX-D/11/002 Overseas Realty (Ceylon) PLC World Trade Centre, Echelon Square, Colombo 1
EL/EX-D/11/003 Mireka Capital Land (Private) Limited 324, Havelock Road, Colombo 6
EL/EX-D/12/001 Asian Hotels and Properties PLC No. 89, Galle Road, Colombo 3 General Gazette – No. 1744, 3 February 2012
EL/EX-D/12/002 BOC Property Development & Management (Private) Limited BOC Merchant Tower, 28, St. Michael’s Road, Colombo 3
EL/EX-D/12/003 Millenium Development (Private) Limited Excel World Entertainment Park, 338, T B Jayah Mawatha, Colombo – 10
EL/EX-D/12/004 Property Finance and Investments Kandy (Private) Limited Kandy City Centre, 05, Dalada Vidiya, Kandy
EL/EX-D/12/005 Whittall Boustead (Private) Limited 148, Vauxhall Street, Colombo 2
EL/EX-D/12/006 Ceylon Carriers (Private) Limited 104, Nawala Road, Narahenpita, Colombo 5 Extraordinary Gazette – No. 1749/8, 12 March 2012
EL/EX-D/12/007 JayKay Marketing Services (Private) Limited K-Zone Shopping Mall, 340, Galle Road, Moratuwa Extraordinary Gazette – No. 1757/19, 11 May 2012
EL/EX-D/12/008 Platinum Realty Investments (Private) Limited 01, Bagatale Road, Colombo 3
EL/EX-D/12/009 Union Residencies (Private) Limited No. 200, Union Place, Colombo 2
EL/EX-D/12/010 Pelwatte Sugar Industries PLC Pelwatte Sugar Industries Buttala
EL/EX-G/12/001 Tokyo Cement Power (Lanka) Limited 10 MW Biomass Power Plant, Cod Bay, China Bay, Trincomalee Extraordinary Gazette – No. 1759/31, 23 May 2012

See also[edit]

References and Notes[edit]


  1. ^ Schools, hospitals, vocational training institutions and universities included, which are fully owned by the government, funded through the national budget, and providing services free-of-charge to the general public. Hospitals and schools are exempted from the Fuel Adjustment Charge (FAC).


  1. ^ a b CEB Statistics, archived from the original on 2012-09-04, retrieved 2012-10-07 
  2. ^ Economic and Social Statistics of Sri Lanka 2011 pg. 58
  3. ^ Economic and Social Statistics of Sri Lanka 2012 pg. 58
  4. ^ Basnayaka, Chathuranga. "Ceylon Electricity Board" (PDF). University of Ruhuna. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c Ceylon Electricity Board Statistical Digest 2013
  6. ^ Energy permits for small hydro projects, retrieved 2012-10-07 
  7. ^ No more coal plants, retrieved 2010-08-08 [permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Ministry: Current energy projects (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-07-11, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  9. ^ G. Juleff, "An ancient wind powered iron smelting technology in Sri Lanka", Nature 379(3), 60–63 (January, 1996)
  10. ^ Energy permits for wind projects (PDF), retrieved 2010-10-22 [permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Sri Lanka wind power probe to finish soon, archived from the original on 2010-01-03, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  12. ^ a b Wind powered electricity generation projects halted, retrieved 2010-09-12 
  13. ^ Uproar over wind power scheme, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  14. ^ SLSEA rejects CEB engineers’ concerns, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  15. ^ CEB to purchase wind power at world’s highest price, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  16. ^ Revision of Non-Conventional Renewable Energy Based Electricity Purchase Tariffs, retrieved 2010-09-12 [permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Extension of Period allowed for representations on proposed Non-Conventional Renewable Energy Based Electricity Purchase Tariffs, retrieved 2010-09-12 [permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Energy permits for solar projects (PDF), retrieved 2010-10-22 [permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Sri Lanka is to develop geothermal power, archived from the original on 2011-07-22, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  20. ^ Geothermal energy in Sri Lanka, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  21. ^ Geothermal energy for growing power demand, archived from the original on 2009-11-19, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  22. ^ "Sri Lanka eyes nuclear power plant after 2030". Lanka Business Online. 4 Jun 2014. Archived from the original on 12 January 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  23. ^ "India-Sri Lanka 285-Km Power Transmission Link By 2013". RTT News. Global Energy Network Institute. 2009-12-29. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  24. ^ "Electricity Tariffs for 2013" (PDF). Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka. May 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  25. ^ Sri Lanka power utility to start net metering, archived from the original on 2011-07-13, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  26. ^ Net metering of electricity, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  27. ^ Sri Lanka gets first ever net metered solar photovoltaic plant, retrieved 2010-08-07 
  28. ^ "Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009" (PDF). Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  29. ^ "Electricity Exemptions Granted to Persons as per the Section 21 (2) of the Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009" (PDF). Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka. 1 April 2000. Retrieved 21 April 2013.