By Rathindra Kuruwita
The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) was expected to incur a loss of Rs 50 billion this year, and the situation would continue for the next six to seven years unless a major low cost (coal-fired) power plant was set up, CEB Engineers’ Union President Saumya Kumarawadu said yesterday.
Kumarawadu said his union would launch a work-to-rule campaign from 08 May as it had failed in its efforts to educate the government officials on the situation and convince them of the need to adopt remedial measures as a national priority.
‘After the Norachcholai Power Plant was built in 2014, the generation cost of one unit of electricity dropped to Rs. 15.07 and the government was able to reduce the electricity bill by 25%. However, Kumarawadu said, since then no low cost thermal power plants had been added to the system, although each year the demand went up by 200 MWS. The cost of one unit of electricity had gone up to Rs 21.32 in 2017. The CEB lost Rs 45 billion that year.”The 15-year delay in commissioning the Norachcholei Power Plant had cost the country Rs. 900 billion and the scrapping of the Sampur Coal Power Plant, at the last moment, had already cost Sri Lanka Rs. 200 billion, Kumarawadu said. The reason for the colossal losses was that the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) had scrapped the proposed coal-fired power plants from the CEB’s Least Cost Power Generation Expansion Plan (LCLTGEP) 2018- 2037, he added.
“They have discarded our proposals to allow private investors to establish high-cost power plants which will upset the balance we seek in the country’s energy mix,” Kumarawadu said.
The engineers’ union had first decided to start the work-to-rule campaign on April 20, but the launch of the protest had been delayed in view of Vesak, Kumarawadu said. “We want the government to meet four demands. We want the government to approve our LCLTGEP, allocate land and other facilities necessary for the construction low cost coal power plants, devise a proper mechanism to provide a government subsidy for the CEB for providing electricity to customers at a subsidized price and amend the Sri Lanka Electricity Act No 20 of 2009 to minimise ‘unnecessary impediments to the smooth function of CEB.