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Power problems prolonged


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  • Scheduled power cuts to be carried out despite Minister’s objections 
  • Power Ministry meetings heat up over disputed move to carry out load shedding 
  • Minister’s requests to force entities into self-generation plan refused by CEB, notes it is a voluntary scheme 
  • CEB tests rainmaking program in bid to increase low water levels in reservoirs
  • Secy. hopeful to sign two IPPs on Monday, but says rates problematic 
  • Ministry spokesman quits, but Secy. refuses to accept resignation 

 

By Chathuri Dissanayake 

Power Minister Ravi Karunanayake yesterday remained steadfast in his refusal to acknowledge the existence of scheduled power cuts even though the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) continues to carry out planned load shedding. 

CEB meetings with a very short-tempered Power, Energy and Business Development Minister Ravi Karunanayake did not yield desired results as the Minister refused the CEB’s request to announce scheduled power cuts, top sources told Daily FT. 

“The Minister was in a bad temper. He did not want to announce power cuts, but the CEB has no choice but to go ahead with the load shedding. There is already a schedule in place and the power cuts are happening as planned; three hours during day time and one hour during the evening,” one source told the Daily FT. 

Suggestions by the Minister to terminate power supply to those who had self-generating capacity were flatly refused by the officials of the CEB, who pointed out that such measures are illegal and will result in legal action being instituted against the service provider, a source said.On Thursday, during meetings with the Ministry Secretary and CEB officials, the Minister had lashed out at the Secretary and the CEB when the issue was discussed, Daily FT learnt. 

Karunanayake’s request to release water from the Victoria Reservoir was also turned down by the Mahaweli Authority, which informed the Minister that the water is reserved for agriculture purposes as a policy. 

However, the CEB board, which met on Thursday afternoon, decided to go ahead with scheduled load shedding as they were unable to meet the demand, which had peaked at 47 KW/h last week. 

“The Board has no choice but to carry out load shedding as the CEB cannot manage more than 1950 MW demand at present during the day time. CEB has to carry out the load shedding. This has been happening and there is already a schedule known to the CEB although it has not been made public due to Minister’s decision,” one source privy to the business of the Board told Daily FT.

When asked, Ministry Secretary Dr. B. M. S. Batagoda admitted that the CEB is carrying out load shedding according to a schedule despite Ministry instructions to carry out power cuts only when they are unable to cater to the full demand. However, CEB sources claim that a schedule has been drawn up only to ensure that the same consumer does not experience repeated load shedding and to spread the power cuts evenly as the practice is inevitable under the current circumstances. 

Dr. Batagoda also confirmed that Ministry spokesperson Sulakshana Jayawardena has stepped down from his position but said he will not be accepting the resignation. 

The CEB Board also decided to carry out the Self-Generation Scheme program despite little success with the program in the past. 

“It’s a voluntary scheme and has had little success in the past. The generators owned by many large-scale businesses such as hotels are not meant for regular power generation but for emergencies. So they do not like to use them for regular generation,” an Engineer in CEB, who declined to be quoted, explained. 

The CEB will announce a payment scheme for those who are willing to participate in the Self-Generation Scheme. On a previous occasion when the program was implemented, the CEB had paid Rs. 36 per KW/h. 

The CEB Board has also decided to recommend the Ministry to sign procurement contracts with two Independent Power Producers (IPPs), Ace Matara Ltd. and Asia Power Ltd., which has already received Cabinet approval. The CEB has on previous occasions made the same recommendations to avoid the short-term power crisis in the country due to dry weather conditions. 

The IPPs are likely to sign the contracts with the two remaining IPPs on Monday, which will add 70 MW to the grid. 

“I plan to get them to sign contracts with them on Monday, but the issue is their rates. I am trying my best to negotiate a better one,” Dr. Batagoda told Daily FT. 

Dr. Batagoda is also hopeful the rainmaking exercise tested successfully for the first time in the country yesterday will also help deal with the current power crisis. 

The first attempt was carried out yesterday, and resulted in a moderate rainfall experienced over the Mausakelle Reservoir for around 45 minutes. 

“If we are able to fill the Mausakelle and Castlereigh reservoirs with this method, we will be able to manage until 21 April, when Victoria Reservoir releases water,” Dr. Batagoda said. 

The special team of engineers from Thailand, who are in the country to give technical expertise on the rainmaking project, will remain in Sri Lanka for a week to engage in the project initiated by the Ministry in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), he said. 


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