In 2021, Sri Lanka's per capita electricity consumption was significantly lower than the global average, at about 85.5 watts per person compared to the world figure of 412 watts per person. Over 60% of this electricity came from fossil fuels, with almost 22.2 watts per person generated from coal alone. Meanwhile, low-carbon electricity, which is much cleaner and better for the environment, contributed just over 32.4 watts per person, of which hydropower was the leading source at 26.2 watts per person. The use of solar, wind, and biofuels for electricity generation was quite limited, contributing less than 6.2 watts per person in total. The relatively low level of electricity generation might contribute to slower economic development and could be a sign of insufficient access to electricity in some parts of the country. It's also worth noting that Sri Lanka is entirely self-reliant when it comes to electricity, as it neither imports nor exports electricity from other countries or regions.
Given the country's limited electricity generation and reliance on fossil fuels, there is considerable room for Sri Lanka to expand its low-carbon electricity generation. Looking at successful countries, it could take a cue from Denmark and Sweden, which have each managed to generate more than 360 watts per person through wind energy alone. Further, nuclear energy, another low-carbon source, has been successfully utilized by various countries; for example, Sweden can generate more than 550 watts per person with nuclear power. Although Sri Lanka is a much smaller country compared to the ones cited here, these examples demonstrate the potential for considerably ramping up low-carbine electricity generation.
The history of low-carbon electricity in Sri Lanka is primarily centered around hydropower, which has seen ups and downs over the years. The generation of hydroelectric power saw a modest increase of 0.9 TWh in 1984, and then fluctuated with notable decreases in 1987 and 1996 and an increase in 1993. Despite these fluctuations, the 2000s brought another period of growth for hydroelectric power in Sri Lanka, with an increase of 1.2 TWh in 2006 and a remarkable 3.6 TWh in 2013. However, this upward trend was closely followed by periods of decline, particularly in the years 2014, 2016, and 2019. Despite these decreases, hydropower remains the leading source of low-carbon electricity in the country.