Three years after objecting to a Chinese energy project in northern Sri Lanka, barely 50 km off Tamil Nadu’s coast, India is set to implement a hybrid power project in three islands off the Jaffna peninsula with a $11-million grant.

Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority, the Government of Sri Lanka, and Indian company U-Solar Clean Energy Solutions on Friday signed the contract for building “Hybrid Renewable Energy Systems” in Delft or Neduntheevu, Nainativu and Analaitivu islands off Jaffna peninsula in the island’s north.

Grant assistance

“The project, which is aimed at addressing energy needs of the people of the three islands, is being executed through grant assistance from Government of India. The hybrid project combines various forms of energy including both solar and wind, towards optimising capacities,” a press release from the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

In a post on social media platform ‘X’ thanking the Government of India, Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara said: “The project with 530 kw Wind power, 1,700 kw Solar power, 2,400 kwh Battery power and 2,500 kw of stand by diesel power system will be constructed at the 3 Islands by U-SOLAR.” The Bangalore-based company was chosen through a competitive bidding process conducted by the Sri Lankan government for Indian firms, officials said.

The initiative is the third India-backed energy project coming up in Sri Lanka’s north and east. The National Thermal Power Corporation is spearheading a solar venture in the eastern Sampur town, while the Adani Group is setting up renewable energy projects in Mannar and Pooneryn in the north.

India’s offer

The Sri Lankan Cabinet first cleared Sinosoar-Etechwin Joint Venture in China, to execute renewable energy projects in the three islands. The company was chosen through a competitive bid backed by the Asian Development Bank. Concerned by the prospect of a Chinese project very close to India’s southern coastline,  India offered to implement the same project with a grant instead of a loan, and Sri Lanka took it up.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in March 2022, during External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Sri Lanka. China’s displeasure at the turn of events is no secret. The Chinese Ambassador in Colombo voiced rare criticism of Sri Lankan authorities for suspending the original projects for “unknown reasons” and sending out the “wrong message” to potential investors.

Meanwhile, Sino Solar Hybrid Technology, whose energy project was suspended in Sri Lanka, in December 2021, signed a deal to implement a similar project in the Maldives.

(Meera Srinivasan is The Hindu correspondent in Colombo)