Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) engineers accused the Government of obstructing the construction of major power plants, in order to purchase emergency power on a short-term basis, at very high prices, from the beginning of the drought season every year.
They also alleged that the Ministry of Power, Energy and Business Development is not granting approval for the five 100 MW and 24 x 4 MW Diesel Power Plants which have been proposed as a medium-term solution to the power demand.
“The Ministry is not approving the Tender Book, which was prepared on the five 100 MW and 24 x 4 MW Diesel Power Plants and is only engaging in pointing out faults. We cannot make draft a Tender Book or change specifications according to the needs of businessmen,” Executive Committee member of the CEB Engineers Union (CEBEU) Athula Wanniarachchi said.
This accusation comes following the Cabinet, last Monday, approving the purchase of 100 MW of emergency power in order to supply electricity without interruption to the people during the drought period, which begins in February/March.
It has been decided to purchase 100 MW of emergency power for one year as a solution to the power deficit of 300 MW which exists at present and until such time, major power plants are constructed. However, if power is needs to be purchased during the second year, those prices too have been queried through the Tender papers.
“That means even if they say it is for one year only, it is apparent that they are preparing to purchase emergency power continuously. However, what we have to do is not purchase emergency power every year by February and March but to build large scale power plants. Nevertheless, what the government is doing is joining the business mafia and bringing various obstructions to constructing major plants,” he said further.
However, Ministry Media Spokesman Sulakshana Jayawardena said that the Ministry was not intentionally causing delays. He said, the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) appointed for the 100MW barge diesel power plant to be established in Galle was appointed only on 28 July 2017. Similarly the TEC for the 24MW x 4 power plants was appointed only on 11 August 2017.
Yet, engineers point out that although the 100MW barge and the 24MW x 4 are Diesel Power plants, they can be connected to high voltages. But, they said that if emergency power is necessary to be connected to any required places, it would not be possible due to technical reasons.
Since no major power plant was constructed subsequent to the third phase of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant being completed in 2013, energy experts continuously warned that a serious crisis will arise in the energy sector.
There is a case being heard in Court regarding the awarding of the Tender regarding the 300 MW LNG Power Plant, which was scheduled to be constructed at Kerawalapitiya as a solution to this crisis. Although it was due to have been added to the National Power Grid in 2019 that will not happen now.
At the same time, engineers allege that the government is delaying releasing lands required for the Clean Coal Power Plant of 300 MW to be constructed at Fowl Point in Trincomalee.