PM warns Minister Ravi: No more power cuts

Ravi Karunanayake cry

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned Power and Energy Minister Ravi Karunanayake that his Ministry and Ceylon Electricity Board officials will be held personally responsible if there were more power outages.

His strong warning letter came as threats of renewed power cuts loomed large due to supply generated falling far short of expectations.

Premier Wickremesinghe has told Minister Karunanayake that the ministerial committee dealing with the power situation has decided to recommend procuring required emergency capacity at the least cost. The warning comes amid reports that long-term power supplies were to be bought at higher costs, as revealed in the Sunday Times last week.

Premier Wickremesinghe’s letter said: “Please note that your Ministry, the Ceylon Electricity Board and senior officials of these institutions will be personally held responsible for not having any more power outages.”

During the height of the crisis in March and early April, peak hour electricity demand, fuelled by extreme heat and humidity, increased to unprecedented levels. Peak-hour demand during the night reached 2,600 Megawatts (MW) with even daytime demand going up to between 1,600 and 1,700MW, the CEB said. Demand reduced considerably during the April holiday season, with peak hour night time demand going down to around 2,000MW.

At the time of the crisis, the country’s national grid was facing a deficit of some 300MW. The CEB has since been able to reconnect 60MW of power to the national grid from its barge mounted power plant at Colombo Port. A further 71MW has already been bought from two Independent Power Producers (IPPs) – Asia Power in Sapugaskanda and ACE Power in Matara.

The CEB also hopes that 100MW of emergency power provided by three foreign companies will be fully connected to the national grid by the end of this month.

Accordingly, Britain-based Aggreko International Projects Ltd, the United Arab Emirates-based Altaaqa Alternative Solutions Global FZE and V Power Holdings Ltd. of Hong Kong will be supplying power to the national grid for six months.

Power and Energy Ministry Director Sulakshana Jayawardena told the Sunday Times agreements had been signed for the supply of 66MW out of the 100MW for this emergency power purchase.

“We have already signed agreements with V Power and Altaaqa. The agreement with Aggreko, too, is to be signed soon,” he said. Their generators were on route to Sri Lanka and would become fully operational by the end of this month, he added.

Mr Jayawardana acknowledged that providing uninterrupted power was still a formidable challenge to the CEB. “Demand is likely to rise again from tomorrow, but we are experiencing some fairly heavy rains in the catchment areas now. That has allowed us to generate a little more hydropower. Given that the barge power plant, IPPs and emergency power are now either connected to the national grid or being connected, we hope we can handle the situation, though we continue to urge the consumers to use electricity sparingly.”

While there were no scheduled or unscheduled power cuts during the holiday season, numerous power breakdowns, mostly due to bad weather, left a large number of areas without power for extended periods.

Meanwhile, a senior CEB engineer, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, said the purchased emergency power should be connected to the grid without delay to ensure that rising demand could be met. He claimed there was the possibility of some power cuts if the demand proved too strong and adequate resources were not in place to meet it.

“We are not talking about four hour power cuts like what happened earlier, but there is certainly a possibility of power cuts lasting a lesser duration,” he added.

(Source: The Sunday Times – By Sandun Jayawardena)