Electricity sector in Sri Lanka

The electricity sector in Sri Lanka has a national grid which is primarily powered by hydroelectric power and thermal power, 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, solar thermal and wave power are not used in the power generation process for the national grid.[1]

Electricity sector of Sri Lanka
Charts showing the available grid capacity by source (left) and the annual generation by source (right).[1][2][3]
Installed capacity (2017)4,086 MW
Production (2017)14,671 GWh

The country is expected to achieve 75% electricity generation by renewable energy by 2025.[4]


A tram of Colombo Electric Tramways in 1899, showing British people, Arab traders, and locals.

Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) first witnessed electricity in 1882 when SS Helios docked in Colombo for a local electricity exhibition.[5]

In 1890, using a diesel generator the first electric bulb in Ceylon was lit with electricity in the Billiard Room of Bristol Hotel in Colombo, before electric lights became an established commercial product.[5]

In 1895, Messrs Boustead Bros established a small power station in Bristol Building, Fort. The power station was the first commercial power station in the country, serving a few mercantile offices, government buildings, and streets, in the Fort area. The company established Electricity Ordinance No. 5, the first Act pertaining to the supply of electricity in the country.[6]

Four years later in 1899, United Planters Company established the Colombo Electric Tramways, the first tram system in the country. In 1902, Colombo Electric Tramways and Lighting Co. Ltd. was formed, and the Pettah Power Station was established on Gas Works Street.

The Pettah Power Station served the tram network, and also served mostly mercantile offices, government buildings, and streets. Over the next three years, the electricity supply was extended to Galle Face and Kollupitiya, serving several houses.

In 1905, the Colombo Gas Company established a power station in Kandy, which was eventually taken over by the Kandy Municipal Council in 1922. In 1906, Electricity Ordinance No. 36 was passed as an amendment to Electricity Ordinance No. 5.

In 1912, the government commissioned a small hydroelectric power station at Black Pool, and inaugurated the Nuwara Eliya Electricity Scheme. In 1918, D. J. Wimalasurendra, submitted a report to the Engineering Association of Ceylon, outlining the economic viability of hydroelectricity in Ceylon.

From 1920, local authorities in at least Gampaha, Veyangoda, Ja-Ela, Peliyagoda, Kochchikade, Avissawella, and Minuwangoda started supplying electricity locally from diesel generators.

In 1927, the Department of Government Electrical Undertakings (DGEU) was established to take over and run the electricity supply business in Colombo, and extend the supply to other areas, and eventually the entire country. The three-megawatt Stanley Power Station - named after Herbert Stanley, was commissioned in 1929, supplying 16 towns by the end of the year.

In 1935, the State Council of Ceylon passed Electricity Board Establishment Ordinance No. 38 of 1935, only to be dissolved again 1937 with the re-establishment of the DGEU.

Sri Lankan gained independence on 4 February 1948.

On 30 October 1950, the Old Laxapana Power Station was finally completed, after being under development since 1924.[7] The same year, regional offices were opened in Norton Bridge, Nuwara Eliya, Diyathalawa, Panadura, Negombo, Avissawella, and Peradeniya, to decentralise the electricity works. The following year, electricity was purchased from the Kankesanthurai Cement Factory from distribution in Jaffna.

On 1 November 1969, the current Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) was established under Parliament Act No. 17 of 1969. To this day, the CEB oversees the development and coordination of the generation, supply, and distribution of electricity in the country.[8]

Power generation

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 fuel-oil), 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 2015 2016 2017 2018
Hydropower 1,2931,3161,3261,3571,3791,3821,4011,5841,6281,6651,6841,7261,7451,793
Fuel oil 1,1151,1151,1151,2851,2901,3901,3901,3381,3351,2151,1151,2151,2331,137
Coal 000000300300300900900900900900
Other renewables 33331545509099152148176208216
Total capacity 2,4112,4342,4442,6452,6842,8173,1413,3123,3623,9323,8474,0174,0864,046
Annual generation by year (in gigawatt-hours)
Source 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Hydropower 3,4534,6363,9484,1353,9055,6344,6223,2926,9264,5345,9694,2204,0046,381
Fuel oil 5,3144,7515,8655,7635,9754,9945,7486,9353,3034,3062,2754,4615,0453,626
Coal 0000001,0381,4041,4693,2024,4435,0475,1034,764
Other renewables 22232786121171262315402421519511
Total generation 8,7699,3899,8159,9019,90710,71411,52911,80211,96012,35713,08914,14914,67115,282


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 the power generated in 2013.[9] 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 resources is 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.[10]

The two hydroelectric complexes of Sri Lanka.

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

  • Laxapana Complex consists of six main dams with related power stations — Broadlands, Canyon, Castlereigh, Laxapana, Maskeliya, and Norton dams.
  • Mahaweli Complex consists of eight dams and related power stations: Bowatenna, Kotmale, Moragahakanda, Polgolla, Randenigala, Rantembe, Upper Kotmale, and the Victoria dams.
  • Samanala Complex consists of the Gal Oya, Kukule Ganga, Samanala, and Udawalawe dams.

Thermal power

900 MW 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.[9] Thermal power stations in Sri Lanka runs on diesel, other fuel oils, naptha or coal.[9] 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,[11] the Sampur Coal Power Station, is under consideration in Trincomalee and is expected to be in-service by the end of 2017.[12] On 13 September 2016 the Attorney General's Department informed the Supreme Court that the Sampur Coal fired plant has been cancelled and will not be built.[13]

Wind power

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.[14]

The development of modern wind farms was 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. The country has good off-shore wind potential to meet all its electricity requirements.[15]

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 have turned too tight for 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 increase 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 need a complete upgrade to support further commercial-scale developments. This factor contributes to a large percentage in development costs for wind farms constructed at such locations. The government policy limit of 10 MW per wind project also significantly decreases economies of scale, further straining such developments.

Current status

Despite the many technical obstacles, a few developments totalling 50 MW have been proposed till September 2009.[16] 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.[17] The Ministry made allegations of wrongdoing in allocating energy licences, including the structuring of the wind power tariff.[18] There were also allegations that energy licenses are being sold, similar to how car licenses have been sold.[18]

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,[19][20] 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.[21] A review of the wind power tariff was expected to be carried out on 12 September 2010,[22] after an agreed postponement.[23]

Solar power

As of 2017, Sri Lanka has more than 100 MW in installed capacity for solar power and intends to be able to generate 1 GW installed capacity by 2025.[24]

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).[25]

Through the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy, Ceylon Electricity Board, and the SLSEA, the country is implementing an accelerated solar rooftop program called Soorya Bala Sangramaya (Battle for Solar Energy). The program was launched on 6 September 2016.[24]

Geothermal power

Geothermal power is under research, although no power stations of this type are operational.[26][27][28]

Nuclear power

The CEB has included a 600 MWe nuclear power plant as an option in its plans for 2031.[29]

Power transmission

Transmission network

Sri Lanka transmission system

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

Overhead Transmission Lines
LineNo. of Ground WiresNo. of circuitsNominal Voltage
Norochcholai-New Anuradhapura22220kV
Kotmale-New Anuradhapura22220kV
Habarana-Old Anuradhapura12132kV
Old Anuradhapura-Puttalam22132kV
New Laxapana-Bogawanthalawa Estate12132kV
New Anuradhapura-Vavuni12132kV
New Laxapana-Canyon PS21132kV
Old Laxapana-Polpitiya22132kV
Nuwara Eliya-Badulla22132kV
Old Laxapana-Nuwara Eliya22132kV

India – Sri Lanka grid interconnection

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.[30] As Sri Lanka has good solar PV and offshore wind power potential, surplus renewable power generated in Sri Lanka can be exported to India in future.

Electricity use

End-user power tariffs

The monthly end-user electricity tariffs are:

Electricity tariffs as at 19 February 2019.[31][32][33]
UserClassUnits (kWh) / Time-of-useTariff
Fixed charge
Max. demand charge
DomesticD-1≤60 kWh per month000-0302.5030.00N/A
≥60 kWh per month000-0607.85N/A
Time-of-use (optional)Day (05:30-18:30)25.00540.00N/A
Peak (18:30-22:30)54.00
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)13.00
ReligiousR-1≤42kVA at 400/230V000-0301.9030.00N/A
IndustryI-1≤42 kVA at 400/230 V≤30010.80600.00N/A
≤42 kVA at 400/230 V
(Time-of-use - optional)
Day (05:30-18:30)11.00300.00N/A
Peak (18:30-22:30)20.50
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)6.85
I-2≥43 kVA at 400/230 VDay (05:30-18:30)11.003,000.001,100.00
Peak (18:30-22:30)20.50
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)6.85
I-3≥11,000 VDay (05:30-18:30)10.251,000.00
Peak (18:30-22:30)23.50
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)5.90
HotelH-1≤42 kVA at 400/230 V21.50600.00N/A
H-2≥43 kVA at 400/230 VDay (05:30-18:30)14.653,000.001,100.00
Peak (18:30-22:30)23.50
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)9.80
H-3≥11,000 VDay (05:30-18:30)13.703,000.001,100.00
Peak (18:30-22:30)22.50
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)8.80
GovernmentGV-1≤42kVA at 400/230 V14.65600.00N/A
GV-2≥42kVA at 400/230 V14.553,000.001,100.00
GV-3≥11,000 V14.353,000.001,000.00
CEB-owned EV
charging stations
EVDC Fast ChargingDay (05:30-18:30)50.00N/AN/A
Peak (18:30-22:30)70.00
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)30.00
AC ChargingDay (05:30-18:30)30.00
Peak (18:30-22:30)55.00
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)20.00
Street lightingSLPublic use17.00N/AN/A
Private use
[Note 1]
G-1≤42 kVA at 400/230 V≤30018.30240.00N/A
G-2≥42 kVA at 400/230 VDay (05:30-18:30)21.803,000.001,100.00
Peak (18:30-22:30)26.60
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)15.40
G-3≥11,000 VDay (05:30-18:30)20.703,000.001,000.00
Peak (18:30-22:30)25.50
Off-peak (22:30-05:30)14.35

Net metering

In 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.[34] 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.[35] The first solar power facility intended for net metering was commissioned in July 2010.[36]

Entities exempted for electricity-usage charges

Per Section 21-2 of the Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009,[37] 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.[38]
Exemption No.Person/EntityPremisesGazette No. & Date
EL/EX-D/11/001MAS Fabric Park (Private) LimitedMAS Fabric Park, Kurunegala Road, ThulhiriyaExtraordinary Gazette – No. 1725/14 28 September 2011
EL/EX-D/11/002Overseas Realty (Ceylon) PLCWorld Trade Centre, Echelon Square, Colombo 1
EL/EX-D/11/003Mireka Capital Land (Private) Limited324, Havelock Road, Colombo 6
EL/EX-D/12/001Asian Hotels and Properties PLCNo. 89, Galle Road, Colombo 3General Gazette – No. 1744, 3 February 2012
EL/EX-D/12/002BOC Property Development & Management (Private) LimitedBOC Merchant Tower, 28, St. Michael's Road, Colombo 3
EL/EX-D/12/003Millenium Development (Private) LimitedExcel World Entertainment Park, 338, T B Jayah Mawatha, Colombo – 10
EL/EX-D/12/004Property Finance and Investments Kandy (Private) LimitedKandy City Centre, 05, Dalada Vidiya, Kandy
EL/EX-D/12/005Whittall Boustead (Private) Limited148, Vauxhall Street, Colombo 2
EL/EX-D/12/006Ceylon Carriers (Private) Limited104, Nawala Road, Narahenpita, Colombo 5Extraordinary Gazette – No. 1749/8, 12 March 2012
EL/EX-D/12/007JayKay Marketing Services (Private) LimitedK-Zone Shopping Mall, 340, Galle Road, MoratuwaExtraordinary Gazette – No. 1757/19, 11 May 2012
EL/EX-D/12/008Platinum Realty Investments (Private) Limited01, Bagatale Road, Colombo 3
EL/EX-D/12/009Union Residencies (Private) LimitedNo. 200, Union Place, Colombo 2
EL/EX-D/12/010Pelwatte Sugar Industries PLCPelwatte Sugar Industries Buttala
EL/EX-G/12/001Tokyo Cement Power (Lanka) Limited10 MW Biomass Power Plant, Cod Bay, China Bay, TrincomaleeExtraordinary Gazette – No. 1759/31, 23 May 2012

See also

References and Notes


  1. Shops, offices, banks, warehouses, public buildings, hospitals, educational establishments, places of entertainment, and other premises not covered under any other tariffs.


  1. CEB Statistics, archived from the original on 4 September 2012, retrieved 7 October 2012
  2. Economic and Social Statistics of Sri Lanka 2011 Archived 31 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine pg. 58
  3. Economic and Social Statistics of Sri Lanka 2012 Archived 19 February 2018 at the Wayback Machine pg. 58
  4. "Sri Lanka on path to 100% renewable energy says a new joint report by UNDP and ADB". UNDP. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  5. "History of Electricity in Sri Lanka". Ceylon Electricity Board. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  6. "The 49th anniversary of Ceylon Electricity Board, was celebrated on 1st November 2018". Ceylon Electricity Board. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  7. Nadeera, Dilshan. "D.J. Wimalasurendra the founding father of hydroelectricity in Sri Lanka Great sons of Galle". Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  8. CEB Historical Data Book 1969-2015. Ceylon Electricity Board. p. X.
  9. "Ceylon Electricity Board Statistical Digest 2013". Archived from the original on 12 January 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  10. Energy permits for small hydro projects, retrieved 7 October 2012
  11. No more coal plants, retrieved 8 August 2010
  12. Ministry: Current energy projects (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 11 July 2009, retrieved 7 August 2010
  13. "Controversial Coal Power Plant in Sampur Cancelled". 13 September 2016.
  14. G. Juleff, "An ancient wind powered iron smelting technology in Sri Lanka", Nature 379(3), 60–63 (January, 1996)
  15. "Offshore Wind Technical Potential in Sri Lanka" (PDF). May 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2022.
  16. Energy permits for wind projects (PDF), retrieved 22 October 2010
  17. Sri Lanka wind power probe to finish soon, archived from the original on 3 January 2010, retrieved 7 August 2010
  18. Wind powered electricity generation projects halted, retrieved 12 September 2010
  19. Uproar over wind power scheme, retrieved 7 August 2010
  20. SLSEA rejects CEB engineers' concerns, retrieved 7 August 2010
  21. CEB to purchase wind power at world's highest price, retrieved 7 August 2010
  22. Revision of Non-Conventional Renewable Energy Based Electricity Purchase Tariffs, retrieved 12 September 2010
  23. Extension of Period allowed for representations on proposed Non-Conventional Renewable Energy Based Electricity Purchase Tariffs, retrieved 12 September 2010
  24. Kenning, Tom (23 November 2017). "Sri Lanka surpasses 100MW of solar capacity". PV Tech. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  25. Energy permits for solar projects (PDF), retrieved 22 October 2010
  26. Sri Lanka is to develop geothermal power, archived from the original on 22 July 2011, retrieved 7 August 2010
  27. Geothermal energy in Sri Lanka, archived from the original on 11 October 2012, retrieved 7 August 2010
  28. Geothermal energy for growing power demand, archived from the original on 19 November 2009, retrieved 7 August 2010
  29. "Sri Lanka eyes nuclear power plant after 2030". Lanka Business Online. 4 June 2014. Archived from the original on 12 January 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  30. "India-Sri Lanka 285-Km Power Transmission Link By 2013". RTT News. Global Energy Network Institute. 29 December 2009. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  31. "Electricity Tariffs and Charges". Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka. 16 September 2014. Archived from the original on 5 November 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  32. "Existing Customer: Tariff Plan". Ceylon Electricity Board. 16 September 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  33. "Residential and religious tariff plans". Ceylon Electricity Board. 16 September 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  34. Sri Lanka power utility to start net metering, archived from the original on 13 July 2011, retrieved 7 August 2010
  35. Net metering of electricity, retrieved 7 August 2010
  36. Sri Lanka gets first ever net metered solar photovoltaic plant, retrieved 7 August 2010
  37. "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.
  38. "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.
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