[The Island] Power cuts now inevitable due to govt dithering

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Power-cuts would have been inevitable even if the 2nd generator of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had not breakdown, yesterday, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) sources said adding that the government had to decide whether it would purchase emergency power or continue with extended power-cuts.

He said: “Power-cuts were scheduled anyway because there wasn’t adequate generation. The matter was only compounded by the breakdown of the 2nd generator. Now the government has to decide whether to purchase emergency power, at high costs that would lead to further losses for CEB or to cut power on a daily basis. It’s a loss situation either way.”

Commenting on the issue, CEB Engineers’ Union President Saumya Kumarawadu said that they had been warning the government for years that the country would face a crisis in 2019 because major low cost power plants were not set up since 2014. “There were plans to add another 500 megawatts to the system by 2019 but none of those plants were built. Not only is the CEB making losses because of this, Rs. 80 billion last year, but will now greatly inconvenience the people,” he said.

Meanwhile the engineers attached to the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant were not able to identify where the fault lay even by 9 pm last night. Indrajith Gallage, assistant general manager, of the Power Plant told The Island that they were still conducting inspections to determine how long it would take them to fix the 2nd generator that had to be shut down due to a technical issue. “It’s an electrical issue, so we have to see where the fault lies. This is an exhaustive process,” he said.

Due to the shutdown, power outages were reported from a number of areas across the country. “We are looking at the matter and we should be able to tell how long it will take to restore it. Hopefully we should be able to get the plant running soon,” he said. The unit that was shut down generated 270 MWs to the national grid. Thus there might be restrictions on power supply until the unit was restored, CEB Spokesperson, Sulakshana Jayawardane said.

Meanwhile industry experts expressed surprise at the fact that there was a failure at the 2nd generator that was overhauled by a Chinese team last year. “The system was overhauled mid-2018. This means that there has been a breakdown within 7 months. This raises serious questions, did the Chinese team mess the overhaul or did our guys mess it up?” he said.

Usually Coal Power Plants need to be overhauled once in four years. The 2nd generator, which was brought online in 2014, was overhauled last year.


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