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How to select a Solar Panel or Solar Electricity Supplier in Sri Lanka?

But first,

Why you should be interested in Solar Electricity for your Home?

“Zero Electricity Bills for Life while Saving the Planet”

  • - Your electricity bill will be virtually ZERO for life of panels,
  • - Your will support to save the environment for your children,
  • - You can own your own home-scale solar power plant and make money,
  • - Your full investment will be recovered in just 4 years,
  • - Electricity bill likely to be tripled every 10 years* for average consumers, but you will be safe.
Now you are interested? Good. But we have a problem.

Fake Brands and B-Grade Solar Equipments

As you are aware there are cheap and low quality solar systems in the market selling for regular prices. It could be a big solar company or a small one, but they all want to make money in a highly competitive solar electricity market.

Thus, some are selling B-Grade Chinese products at the prices of A-Grades that you cannot easily figure out. Some are selling fake products of top solar brands in the world. They may come by the name of stock clearance or another form, yet they maybe B-Grade or fake brands being pushed away at a discount. Now, you should be aware of what you are paying for.

I do not say every solar panel supplier in the market is doing that, but it is difficult to figure out who is doing it and who is not.

Big Brands

Further, there are some solar panel and equipment brands selling in the market for very high prices mentioning that they are the leading brands of the world. As an informed buyer, you should not buy in to such claims at once either.

Some are truly big brands but some are just claims. Even if they are big brands, should we really pay that premium price?

All solar electricity systems work based on the same principle and what matter the most are efficiency of the system and the durability.

The efficiency of a Solar System tends to decline with time and it is inevitable. If the product quality is inferior, the efficiency is low at the showroom condition and declines rapidly with time regardless of the BRAND.

Therefore, in my humble opinion, we should test the product quality rather than the brand and we should pay for high quality products but not for the brands.

I mean, if we can buy an equal quality product at a lower price in the market, why we should pay a premium price? If supplier provides a superior service it makes sense to pay more but definitely not otherwise.

How can we help?

Lex Duco caters many clients who are building their homes with us and interested in Solar Energy. And it is our duty to make sure that our clients pay only the right price for solar electricity system suppliers.

If you are a Lex Duco client, please send us an email to solar@lexduco.lk or CALL 077 9950 310 with your project ID so that we can appoint a qualified engineer to help you with the above matter.

IMPORTANT: You do NOT have to pay extra for this service as it is a part of our Design Consultancy Service.

Please note that your project Chartered Architect or Chartered Engineer may not be able to assist you here as the solar consultation is done by a separate department.

If you are not a Lex Duco client, you may still CALL us on 077 9950 310 or send us an email to solar@lexduco.lk so that we can provide you with a limited support as a service.

Solar Power and Electricity in Sri Lanka and It’s Future

I believe we all agree that installing solar panels at almost every home in order to harvest solar energy is the future of Sri Lanka as well as the everywhere else in the world. Fossil fuels keep damaging our environment and running out of supply day by day. Thus the human race is has no option but to turn towards solar energy whether they like it or not.

Why I mentioned “whether they like it or not” is because of the politics and international conflicts in order to control the oil industry between powerful countries. However they will soon run out of the very object of interest, which is oil, and turn towards solar energy. They know it and may be that is why they have all started moving towards solar especially during this decade.

What will be the future of Solar Power in Sri Lanka? I personally believe that at least 50% of electricity consumers will install solar panels at their homes before 2070. It is just my gut feeling after seeing how fast we welcomed hybrid vehicles, regardless of the investment.

We also welcomed mobile phones, mobile internet, wifi and so on much faster than many countries in the world even though we are not a rich nation.

May be we have a nature of welcoming new technologies faster, maybe we tend to follow western countries faster than the others, maybe it is another reason.

Anyway, I believe that we will be switching to solar energy at domestic level sooner than most of the other similar countries.

Solar energy industry is growing faster than ever before. Gigafactories by Tesla Motors and companies like Panasonic and Toshiba are taking the battery technology to the next levels day by day.

Therefore, soon we will be discussing about domestic electricity storage batteries in Sri Lankan market as well and many of us will be totally independent from the national electricity supply. We will operate our own mini solar power plants at our homes and some of us will sell electricity to the government as well.

Imagine, what if every household that has a TV, has a solar PV system and a battery to store electricity for nights? Every vehicle is electric, and solar re-charging points are widely available everywhere in the country. Don’t you think it is our future?

Or isn’t that the future we should dream of? We do not pollute the environment, we do not pay billions to foreign countries for oil and we do not wait for the government to install more power plants to supply for the growing electricity demand of our country. I truly believe that is the future and that is where we are heading.

However, I cannot say I am happy about the support of the government in any such short term or long term plans.

Yet, we enjoy VAT exemptions as well as reduced import duty for solar panels and equipments and it is a very good start.

We also enjoy three net metering schemes where we can sell or trade electricity generated by household solar PV systems to the government under “Sooriya Bala Sangramaya”.

It is a project launched by the government to encourage the nation to generate solar electricity at their homes, hotels, business premises and so on. The generated solar electricity could be consumed by the generator or fed to the national electricity grid. The government expects to add 1000MW by 2025 to the national electricity supply under this program.

Introduction of those net metering schemes is also a very good start and we should appreciate it. However, we expect more investment from the government in solar systems to encourage the nation towards this solar mission.

Net Metering

I am not sure if the government is planning to buy and sell solar electricity as a business in the long run. If that is their plan, I am personally proud of them.

Commissioning and operating power plants are expensive, transmitting electricity is wasting the same due to the losses in transmission itself, HR Management, Finance, labor issues and all other related operations are messy and costly.

Domestic level mini solar power plants will reduces many of those unnecessary expenses and hassle. It will still leave the national grid for electricity transmission including the generated solar electricity, but with less amount of electricity being transmitted as the personal consumption of the user is generated and consumed at home or business premises itself.

However, Sri Lanka is a country where the peak electricity demand is at around 6:30pm – 9.30pm when the solar panels are practically useless. Therefore, as a country we will be able to save the environment and money from fossil fuel during the day time with solar power, but we will still have to operate other power plants to supply for the said demand. I believe we will have to wait for affordable batteries in the market to solve this problem.

You may also think about job losses in the government sector, which is true. But the government will make more profit from this electricity buying and selling process where they can retain the staff in a more productive sector. Wasting money and keeping old habits just to create jobs is not a good idea, but creating new job opportunities in a more productive sector is.

Now, what is net metering?

Net metering is a concept where utility users can sell or bank solar electricity that is generated at their personal premises to the government.

Generally, what we do is we consume electricity from the national grid and we pay for the number of units consumed.

For example, say Mr. Fernando consumes 300 units per month and he pays for the same based on the tariff structure to the government.

Next month he installs a solar panel and other equipments to generate electricity at home and generates 170 units per month from his own solar PV system as a proud owner of a mini green energy solar power plant. .

If net metering is not available, now he has to switch off the national supply during the day time and consume his own electricity. But during the day time no one is home and it only consumes 30 units per month. The balance of 270 units is consumed during the evenings and night time when his solar panels are practically useless. And he has to pay for 270 units of electricity to the government.

This problem is solved by net metering.

With net metering, Mr. Fernando’s excess electricity is not useless during the day times. It is added to the national grid so that the other utility users can use it and they will not know any difference between the solar electricity generated by Mr. Fernando and electricity generated by the government.

As a compensation for this service, government allows Mr. Fernando to consume electricity during the night times for free up to the amount he added to the grid.

In more proper economic words, Mr. Fernando pays to the government only for the NET amount of electricity that he consumed from the national grid, which is only 130 units. (He consumed 300 units but added 170 units of solar electricity to the grid; 300 - 170 = 130.)

What are those net metering schemes?

The government has introduced three net metering schemes for participants to select depending on their requirements; namely Net Metering, Net Accounting and Net Plus.

Net Metering

If you own a solar panel on top of your roof top, this scheme allows you to pay for the NET electricity consumed by you as explained with an example previously. However, if you produce more than what you consume, you will not be paid by the government, yet that excess amount is carried forward in your electricity bill for up to 10 years, which is known as “banking” electricity. You can use it again within the next 10 years in the form of electricity but you cannot convert it to money.

All net metering users can switch to other schemes easily in case if they want to cash their excess solar power.

This scheme is essentially for solar electricity producers who produce less than what they consume in an average month like Mr. Fernando in our example.

In case if Mr. Fernando goes on a holiday and consumed only 30 units for the whole month, then his excess solar electricity of 140 units will be carried forwarded to the next month. He can even go on a holiday for few years like this and when he is back, he will have to pay less than Rs.100+ only for next couple of years as he had banked his solar electricity while he was away. It is a good business.

Therefore, he will never waste his solar electricity but will be benefitted all the time within the 10 year limit.

Net Accounting

If the solar electricity producer or electricity consumer generates more than what he or she consumes on monthly basis, the government pays him or her for the excess electricity produced.

If you have money to invest in solar panels, this is a good business as you will have a regular income for the rest of the life of your solar panels.

For example, say Mr. Fernando decided to install more solar panels on his rooftop and starts to produce a total of 400 units per month. He only consumes 300 units per month and thus, he adds 100 units extra to the national electricity supply. Now the government pays him for these excess units, which are 100 units, monthly as long as he keeps producing excess solar electricity.

In case Mr. Fernando consumed say 500 units in a particular month, then he will have to pay for that excess usage.

Thus, under the scheme “Net Accounting”, either utility pays the consumer or consumer pays the utility based of the net electricity consumed or added to the grid.

Net Plus

When consumer produces excess electricity as in the example of Net Accounting, under this scheme, the consumer is always paid by the government for the full amount of electricity produced. Consumer has to pay the electricity bill as usual.

Therefore, there is no net calculation, but both parties pay each other for their services. Consumers are free to select which scheme they would like to join based on their requirements and profitability.

I hope you will join the “Soorya Bala Sangramaya (Battle for Solar Energy)” and support our country for a sustainable future.

* This is an assumption based on the historical tariff details but a proper analysis is required.