Environmental Groups Raise Serious Concerns Over Govt's Move To Set Up Two New Coal Power Plants
2017-Dec-19 | By News Admin

Sri Lankan environmental organisations have expressed great concern about the proposal to build two new coal power plants in Sampur and Norochcholai, despite the Public Utilities Commission rejecting the proposal,

 "We note 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)," Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka said, in a media statement yesterday. 

The statement also 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'. As environment organizations, we would like to note 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.

Environmental organizations 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. Furthermore, highly efficient coal plants will still have higher carbon emissions than more environmentally friendly generation methods that the energy mix could include. Including new coal in our future energy mix for the sake of 'diversification' is unjustified and only further reinforces our climate change risks and threatens our national climate action programme.

The last point of the cabinet paper, which purports to plan carbon sequestration through the creation of new carbon-sink forests, raises grave concerns, particularly in the current atmosphere of rapid deforestation raging through Sri Lanka and the lack of enforcement of environmental laws to mitigate it.

It would require planting approximately 36,000 hectares of new forest to sequester the carbon annually emitted by the two power plants. This fact is not mentioned in the cabinet paper. The clear lack of cnsideration for the feasibility of such a task casts doubt on the true intentions of the cabinet paper: as to whether the ministry's intention was to sequester carbon or to greenwash the coal power plants via an impractical promise to sequester their carbon emissions."

Sources : asianmirror