What are leading names in Sri Lankan industries doing to decarbonize?

Sri Lanka’s Energy Savers are industry leaders and energy practitioners who are determined to help the country slash energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions. They are motivated to help the planet and secure a thriving modern industrial sector that will power the Sri Lankan economy for years to come. Here, they explain what they are doing to decarbonize Sri Lankan industries and why the time for action is now.

Mendaka Hettithanthri, Engineering Manager at Teejay Lanka, one of Southeast Asia’s largest fabric manufacturers, says the changing climate is a sure sign that industry, one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels in the country, must do more to lower its carbon emissions.

“You can already see how global warming is affecting Sri Lankans,” he says. “We are an agricultural country … and the farmers used to know exactly when to harvest the crops and when to replant. Now the weather patterns are completely messed up … So the signs are obvious.”

Upendra Arjeewani Weerathunga, Senior Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production Expert at the National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC) Sri Lanka, agrees. “Though Sri Lanka’s contribution to climate change is low compared to developed nations, being a small island nation that is heavily dependent on agriculture means we are extremely vulnerable … Energy management and cleaner production are critical for a sustainable future.”

There are also many business benefits to decarbonization, such as production cost savings, says Nisal Liyanage, Manager of Group Compliance at Hayleys Fentons Group, a leading Sri Lankan engineering company. “We would see reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for greater energy independence for us as a country.”

Market competitiveness

“We are further incentivized by our foreign customers,” explains Mohomad Arshad, Environment, Health and Safety Manager at fabric manufacturer Hayleys Fabric. “Compliance with international controls and requirements related to green practices are essential for remaining competitive in the global market.”

Upendra is also seeing changing market demands in important export markets, such as the European Union and North America. NCPC is supporting Sri Lankan businesses to meet green export requirements through schemes such as the Verification of Life Cycle Assessment. The scheme, which was the first green-certification programme in Sri Lanka, assesses the environmental impacts of products’ lifecycle stages. “Ten years ago, life cycle thinking was almost unheard of in the country. Today, it is a completely different story,” she says.

Sharing knowledge

In addition to market competitiveness, Sri Lanka’s industry leaders are also motivated by the savings and security that more efficient energy use, coupled with renewable technology, can deliver. But more knowledge is urgently needed to help companies tap into this potential, says Nadeera Ramanayake, Assistant Director of Planning at Industrial Development Board of Ceylon.

She welcomes a new 12-month effort spearheaded by NCPC and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), with support from the European Union. They are guiding a first group of 70 Energy Savers through an internationally recognized course on Energy Management Systems (EnMS).

“Amidst the current energy crisis in the country, I thought that joining a project like this and getting knowledge is vital,” says Nadeera. “If we can expand this programme at the national level it could have a significant impact on the country.”

Participants are learning how to deploy cost-effective technology and management practices, tailored to their companies. Arosha Hemali, Business Development Manager at Insee Ecocycle, the waste management arm of a Sri Lankan cement manufacturer, sees her participation in the EnMS training as crucial for wider change. “I will be able to share my knowledge with others [and take] a pivotal role to implement these systems, not only in our companies but in industries around the globe.”

Changing behaviour

Leaders like Arosha can’t do it alone. Cutting energy waste so it makes a difference requires new ways of thinking and acting at all levels of a business, says Damitha Sandanayaka, Energy Management Officer at Colombo Dockyard, a leading shipbuilding and offshore engineering company.

“I strongly believe that changing human behaviour is the key to improving energy efficiency, which is why training and awareness have become fundamental to our organization. We conduct regular training … [and] we also initiated Energy Management Week… This promotes awareness on the importance of energy management and encourages teams to work together to achieve energy efficiency goals.”

Energy Savers have brought in multiple initiatives to change behaviours and build skills in their companies, from putting up posters and running staff training, to establishing energy teams and inducting new staff on energy conservation.

Indika Perera, Group Facilities Manager at DIMO, a major industrial player in Sri Lanka, says: “I believe 60 per cent of energy management is in our behaviour and practices. I am in the process of creating an internal team that will carry the lessons even further … My goal is to build an army of energy savers.”

Making the switch to clean energy

Cutting energy waste often helps manufacturing companies better understand their energy use, creating a solid foundation upon which to build effective renewable energy solutions.

Asanka Manoj, Senior Manager of Production and Facility Maintenance at Flintec Transducers, says that installing rooftop solar panels on all of the company’s plants cut daytime energy use by 65 to 70 per cent. This, coupled with energy efficiency measures, has helped Flintec significantly reduce energy costs and emissions.

Although the benefits are clear, implementing these initiatives has sometimes been challenging: “As part of our energy efficiency measures our maintenance technicians were tasked with carrying out routine servicing, leakage checking and improving compressed air systems. Our biggest challenge … was finding the time to conduct maintenance activities without disrupting our production schedules.”

Another challenge is ensuring that renewable energy sources are environmentally-friendly, explains Jayanath Rupasinghe, Energy Manager at Dipped Products, a company that uses biomass as its primary heating source. “We are now improving our supplier screening process by requiring all our biomass suppliers to hold Sustainable Source of Biomass certification. This ensures the wood supplied is fuelwood or reforested timber,” he says.

The need for multiple solutions

A number of Energy Savers caution against looking for a “magic bullet” to decarbonization. Rather, multiple solutions are needed that use a variety of energy optimization and clean energy technologies.

“Buildings with large energy requirements are seeking out high-tech solutions. But meeting the entire energy requirement of such a building using solar power alone is impossible,” says Sujeewa Fernando, Energy Manager at Access Energy Solutions. “When space is limited, it is not feasible to install high-capacity solar systems. As an alternative, our team recommends exploring other options such as magnetic bearing chillers, which can offer greater energy efficiency.”

K. H. Thanushka at Watawala Plantations agrees: “A holistic approach…is needed to unlock this potential and create a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.”

If you or someone you know is helping your organization save energy, why not join the Energy Savers movement? Find out how here.