The key US$ 455 million Norochcholai power plant will be operational in another two weeks, the Power Minister said yesterday, after its fifth breakdown earlier in the week resulted in countrywide power cuts.
The 300 mega watt Lakvijaya power plant is the first phase in a 900 mega watt coal power plant costing US$ 1.3 billion dollars funded by the Chinese Government.
“There are some technical problems in the Lakvijaya power plant. The Chinese company, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the consultancy firm are now looking into these problems. I think within another two weeks’ time we will be able to operate this plant again and restore 24 hour power supply,” Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka told Daily FT in a brief interview.
He reiterated that the coal power plant had become essential to meet daily power needs due to a severe drought in the country that has reduced hydropower generation, which is Sri Lanka’s main source of electricity, by 85 per cent.
The loss of the electricity generated by Lakvijaya brought about two-hour power cuts that were extended to three hours from Thursday.
The Ministry has already announced that the daily power cuts will continue for at least 14 days.
Earlier in the week CEB officials went on record blaming the repeated breakdowns on defective equipment in the plant. Ranawaka, in response to questions, acknowledged that there were defects in the machinery that were yet to be ironed out.
“The Lakvijaya Power Plant is still in a defect-liability period and there are tests to be done. So I think that as far as the main machine is concerned it is okay but there are problems in the auxiliaries and various technical details because of the unfamiliar nature of the coal power plant.”
However, he insisted that these issues would be overcome in time and commended the Chinese Government for their funding to construct the power plant.
“I think in time to come we will be able to overcome these technical and other difficulties and after commissioning the second phase of the plant, I think the two-decade power deficit problem in Sri Lanka will be solved.”
Once the project is completed, Ranawaka expects the plant to produce as much as 55 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total power needs.