In Conversation with Mr. Lakmal Fernando, Director/CEO, Solar Industries Association

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Tell us more about Solar Industry Association.

The Solar Industries Association was established a few decades ago by a few domestic off-grid solar system installing companies in Sri Lanka, at a time when the country had very limited grid availability. These system integrators were instrumental in installing and maintaining highly subsidized small domestic systems that could power up a few electric lights and maybe a radio. Grid expansion, subsidy curtailment and high system failure rates  led to the natural death of the industry. 

The introduction of new Net-Metering concept by the then government re-energised the industry in 2012. This was further strengthened by the two newly introduced grid connection mechanisms in 2016 – Net Accounting and Net Plus.

Who are the members of your association?

Greater visibility on the growth potential in the solar industry following these initiatives led to many new entrants in to the industry as small domestic roof-top installers, large commercial roof-top EPCs, ground mounted system installers and investors. To-date, there are over 250 such companies that have added over 270MWs to the National Grid within the past 7 years, the majority of these during the past 2-3 years. Our association has EPC companies, ground-mounted solar System owners and renewable energy enthusiasts as current members. 

What are the achievements of Solar Industries Association?

Sri Lanka currently operates mainly on fossil-fuel based energy sources. Hydro power accounts for approximately 28% of total energy production, and non-conventional renewable energy sources still contribute less than 6% to the total energy needs of the country, while fossil-fuel based emergency power purchase has become a regular annual feature to provide for the short-fall. This is not only harmful to the environment, but is also financially detrimental to a developing country. Despite this, the current government is attempting to discontinue the Net-Metering and Net-Accounting schemes, which would be a major setback to the entire solar industry in Sri Lanka. 

The members of the Solar Industries Association Sri Lanka have been instrumental in holding back this destructive approach of the Ministry of Power and Energy & Ceylon Electricity Board, by vociferously and continuously protesting against the recurrent use of emergency power and the moves to discontinue schemes that promote the use of solar energy. They are lobbying all related parties to bring in good governance to the Energy Sector, and to establish long term sustainable development of the Renewable Energy Sector in Sri Lanka. Industry members have lobbied to bring in a more meaningful tariff calculation methodology, based on widely acceptable parameters rather than arbitrary numbers. 

We have also actively contributed to formulate national standards for solar rooftop system installations (SLS 1522) and participated in numerous training programs conducted by the Sustainable Energy Authority, the regulatory body for renewable energy in Sri Lanka.

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