SundayTimes: CEB Engineers Union continuing work-to-rule may see unlicensed PUCSL power plants shutting down

Several power plants being operated without a licence issued by the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) are liable to be shut down if the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) continues with its ‘work-to-rule’ campaign.

Earlier this week, engineers stopped work at a 60 Megawatt (MW) barge mounted plant being operated at the Colombo Port. The plant had not been issued a licence by PUCSL, the power sector regulator, since 2015.

CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu said their members had decided to stop work at the plant as part of their work-to-rule trade union campaign as it would be “illegal” to operate a plant unlicensed by the regulator.

He noted that there were several other power plants which had been purchased by the CEB to supply emergency power, which were also unlicensed by the regulator. “We are currently gathering information on these plants and will make a decision on whether to stop work at these plants too,” he added.

The CEBEU insists that it will continue its trade union action until the PUCSL takes steps to approve the CEB’s Least Cost Long Term Power Generation Plan (LTGEP) and remove PUCSL Director General Damitha Kumarasinghe, who it blames for the spat between the CEB and PUCSL over coal power plants in the LTGEP.

The PUCSL had earlier rejected coal power plants on the grounds that they are against Government policy. The LTGEP approved by the regulator currently has no coal power plants and is based on major hydro, mini hydro, solar, wind, biomass, natural gas, furnace oil-based power and gas turbine power.

The CEBEU President said he was aware that the Government’s new energy policy, which includes coal, has been presented to Cabinet. But, he pointed out that it is ultimately the regulator who will have to approve a generation plan based on that energy policy. The union wants the regulator to approve the CEB’s original plan before the CEB submits a modified version next year.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times learns that the PUCSL has written to President’s Secretary Austin Fernando this week seeking clarification on whether the Government’s energy policy has undergone a change. Noting that it has already approved an amended LTGEP 2018-2037, the regulator has pointed out that according to the Sri Lanka Electricity Act, it can only approve a fresh plan based on the contents of a new energy policy approved by the Cabinet.

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