Clean Energy Keeps Sri Lanka's Lights on | Asian Development Bank

Clean Energy Keeps Sri Lanka's Lights on

Project Result / Case Study | 29 January 2015

Sri Lanka has been a success story in bringing reliable electricity supply to its people, reaching a 98 percent electrification rate.

Chandrika Sreemathie Serasinghe, who works at a grocery store in the town of Mahiyangana, in central Sri Lanka, knows what it is like to have unstable electricity. The 43-year-old woman said during the power outages that used to frequent her area the store would have to keep freezers closed in order to save the food from getting spoiled.

Generators would keep the lights and cash registers working but the heavy freezers, which store meat and other items, used so much power that they needed electricity from the main power grid to stay on. When the power went down, the freezers could not be opened and the items inside could not be sold. In some cases, whole freezers full of ice cream had to be thrown away because they melted.

As a result of the ADB-supported Clean Energy and Access Improvement Project, the lights now stay on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she said. This has increased her sense of job security.

"I support my family with my income from this store," she said. "When the power was unreliable, business was down and I was worried that I could lose my job."

"Sri Lanka has been a success story in terms of bringing electricity to its people. The country's electrification rate is 98 percent and the work of bringing electricity to rural communities is almost complete," said Ranishka Yasanga Wimalasena, a Senior Project Officer specializing in energy in ADB's South Asia Department.

ADB contributed to develop the transmission network around the country, reduced system losses, and supported the Ceylon Electricity Board's efforts to provide reliable electricity supply. ADB has supported the construction or upgrading of around 850km of 220kV and 132 kV transmission lines, 35 grid substations and supported the government's efforts to provide 100% electrification in the country by enhancing the distribution network.

"Sri Lanka has been a success story in terms of bringing electricity to its people. The country's electrification rate is 98 percent and the work of bringing electricity to rural communities is almost complete."

Ranishka Yasanga Wimalasena, Senior Project Officer, ADB

Keeping the lights on

At the small SBTex fabric store, also in the town of Mahiyangana, 22-year-old Geethika Samanthi recalls when the power would go out three or four times per day. When the electricity went off, customers could not see the intricate woven fabrics sold by the store and they did not want to shop in the sweltering heat.

To keep the lights on, the store, which is run by her relatives and is her principal source of income, had to use expensive and dirty diesel-powered generators. That would sometimes cost more than what the store was earning, she said.

In the last year, the power supply situation for the small store has improved due to the ADB-supported energy project. The lights have stayed on and fans steadily hum to keep customers cool and comfortable. The reliable electricity has increased business and the store, which supports three families, is earning more.

"I use my salary to pay my tuition," she said. "I'm studying to be a beautician. I don't want my parents to be burdened by having to pay for my education."