One-hour power cuts imminent

Ceylon Electricity

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has been compelled to impose at least a 1-hour power cut daily in order to avoid power cuts during the New Year, CEB Engineers’ Union warns.

President of the Union, Athula Wanniarachchi, urged the government to take non-political decisions to face the situation, taking the severe drought experienced by the country into consideration.

“This is an extreme situation that must be considered as a national disaster. The government must think practically instead of considering this as a politically disadvantaged action. The practical reality is that we are incapable of generating electricity to match the demand,” Wanniarachchi said.

He pointed out that hydropower generation had been reduced below 40% due to the dwindling water levels in Laxapana, Victoria and Maussakele and Castlereigh Reservoirs.

Responding to an inquiry from Ceylon Today, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy, Dr. Suren Batagoda, said the opinion of the Engineers’ Union was correct.

“We must inform the people and impose regular power cuts at this moment. Otherwise, we will have to be in darkness during the New Year season. There is no water in Mahaweli Reservoirs. Only Randenigala has 94%, but the Ministry of Mahaweli Development refuses to release it for hydropower generation as water is needed for the Yala season, which starts in the third week of April,” Dr. Batagoda said.

He pointed out the data received from the Department of Meteorology have predicted less rainfall in the coming three months.

“The meteorological data I have acquired from Australia and the US also indicate less rain in the upcoming two months. Considering the water levels of the upcountry reservoirs, we will have to impose power cuts,” he further said.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has not still approved the two Cabinet papers submitted on Tuesday to acquire emergency power until the difficult time of two months. When these Cabinet papers were discussed last Wednesday, Minister of Megapolis and Western Province Development Champika Ranawaka had opposed to purchasing emergency power.

Later, this issue was discussed by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the top management of the CEB, at the economic council. Chairman of CEB, Anura Wijepala has said during this meeting that he was unaware of a power crisis.

When we inquired from Wijepala about an impending power cut, he rejected it.

But, Power and Renewable Energy Ministry Secretary Dr. Batagoda pointed out a power cut would be imminent unless emergency power was acquired. “The loss to the economy would be greater than the US$ 9 or 10 million needed for emergency power purchase.”

The CEB Engineers’ Union also pointed out that three or four weeks would be necessary to acquire emergency power. “If we do not order now, it will be even costlier,” the President of the union pointed out.

They also charged that the reason for the present power crisis was the failure to implement the Sampur Coal Power Plant, which was scheduled to be commissioned in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy has decided to purchase private diesel generators in Puttalam, Embilipitiya and Matara, which are now closed after the contract period. They have the capacity of generating about 150 MW.

(Source: Ceylon Today – By Niranjala Ariyawansha)

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