Global universities to upskill Sri Lanka’s renewable workforce

Researchers from the Scottish Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have recently been tasked with helping Sri Lanka upskill its renewable energy workforce so it can reach its threshold of renewable-source energy generation.

The university will receive a share of almost €1m to help build skills in the designing, commissioning, and maintaining of renewable energy projects in the South Asian country, with a specific focus on solar and wind energy generation.

The three-year project has been funded by Erasmus+, the EU student exchange programme for education and training, and is worth £900,000, with GCU having allocated £124,000.

In collaboration with partners from a range of countries, GCU’s researchers will establish five training hubs across Sri Lanka for trainee technicians, engineers, and project managers to build upon their commissioning, design, and operating skills.

The pitch for the research project was led by Professor Mohamed Emad Farrag from GCU’s School of Computing, Engineering, and Built Environment, joined by his colleagues – Dr Ahmed Aboushady, Dr Muditha Kulatunga, and Dr Azmy Gowaid.

Farrag says: “The fund was created for a project contracted for over three years, starting on 1 January 2021 and ending on 31 December 2023. Over this period, equipment for the centres will be procured, training courses will be developed, and the first cohort will complete their training.”

The project will develop its own training programme on photovoltaics and other renewable sources in order to meet known and identified industry requirements. It will focus on quality teaching, providing continuous professional development courses for those seeking skills, and updating skills and knowledge required for work in the renewable energy sector.

As individual country standards often appear to differ from one another, one of the project’s objectives will be to document and address differences in theoretical and practical training between Sri Lanka and the EU, while demonstrating the benefits of a cross-disciplinary energy related curriculum.

In addition to working with Sri Lankan partners, the project involves the collaboration of universities from the UK, Italy, and Romania. The full consortium includes: Northumbria University, UK; Politecnico di Torino, Italy; and the University Valahia of Targoviste, Romania, along with the Sri Lankan partners: the University of Ruhuna, the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority, the Sri Lanka Energy Managers Association, the University of Jaffna, the University of Peradeniya, the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology.

Clarifying the problems that this project is aiming to solve, Faragg explains that “the ultimate objective of the project is to tackle economic and social issues that are common in developing countries”.

“Local people will be given the opportunity to investigate their renewable resources and take advantage of the centre to install green sources. Issues like gender equality and income generation will [also] be in the core focus of the project delivery,” he adds.

Another issue that the collaboration targets is the surging electricity demand in Sri Lanka and the inefficiency of its current renewable generation.

According to research preceding the project establishment, total primary energy supply in Sri Lanka has increased substantially (by an average of 16% between 2010 and 2017), and recorded electricity demand is growing by 6% per annum. As a result of this spike during the last decade, data has indicated a considerable local impact in terms of energy supply security, air pollution, environmental pollution, water scarcity, damage to national heritage, and a direct impact on human life. For this reason, the project will work to help maintain lower energy intensity in the country, while accelerating economic growth.

The GCU operation is also dedicated to addressing the sustainable development challenges caused by Sri Lanka’s almost three decades of civil war which ultimately came to an end in 2009.

As a result of the long internal conflict, the lack of development in infrastructure facilities within the Northern Province and the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka has created significant differences between the two areas and the rest of the country.

This, in turn, has directly affected skill labour availability in the conflict-affected areas and created a living standard gap.

To help tackle this, the project is planning a comprehensive gap analysis of the renewable energy sector’s skill shortages, solar irradiance, and wind speed profile, amongst other types of evaluations.


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