Ravi-CEB clash on power purchase

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Power, Energy, and Business Development Minister Ravi Karunanayake and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) have clashed over a proposal to purchase power from a Turkish company.

Karunanayake warned that the CEB and its board will be held responsible if another power crisis develops in the country.

The Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) of the CEB, appointed to evaluate a 200 MW barged-mounted power ship proposal to be set up in Kerawalapitiya as an immediate solution to tackle the power crisis, rejected the proposal, claiming that it was not feasible.

CEB Engineer’s Union (CEBEU) President Saumya Kumarawadu told The Sunday Morning that after the TEC’s recommendations were submitted to the Standing Cabinet Appointed Procurement Committee (SCAPC), the committee had rejected the proposal as the terms of the proposals were not reasonable.

The proposal was not transparent as it was an unsolicited proposal and the terms and conditions had been decided by the Turkish company. The proposal was first approved by the Cabinet and then referred to the CEB.

A proposal given by the Turkish Company Karatdeniz on 12 April, for two 200 MW barge-mounted power ships, gives the condition: The Sri Lankan Government is required to buy 70% of the production, The Sunday Morning learns.

Cabinet approval had been granted on 30April. The cabinet approved the proposal to procure 200 MW of power priced at Rs. 24.98 a unit from a barge stationed in Kerawalapitiya for a six-month period after a Cabinet paper was presented by Power and Energy Minister Ravi Karunanayake.

A second Cabinet paper presented by the Minister, which is yet to be approved, proposed the price to be increased to Rs. 26.20.

“When we evaluate a proposal, we consider three conditions – technical, financial, and commercial. All those conditions should be favourable for the country for the proposal to be accepted,” Kumarawadu explained.

Explaining the current situation of the power sector, Kumarawadu stressed that there was still a shortage of 200 MW.

“170 MW was purchased last month and the hydropower generation also increased during the last few weeks. Therefore, the CEB could manage to provide an uninterrupted power supply during this period,” he said.

“But there is an immediate need to repair the machines at two power plants – the Kerawalapitiya and Norochcholai power plants – but those machines cannot be stopped as there is no additional power stock,” Kumarawadu explained.

“The hydropower will also be reduced during the next two weeks as there was no sufficient rain received,” he said.

When asked what the immediate solution for the situation would be, Kumarawadu said the implementation of a long term-power generation plan of the CEB was the solution.

Meanwhile, Power and Energy Ministry Director (Development)/Spokesman Sulakshana Jayawardene said the Ministry had received 21 proposals for the expression of interests. However, those proposals were for long-term generation and several others were for 9-12 months. “There are local companies as well as foreign companies. The CEB will evaluate every proposal in the coming weeks,” he added.
Meanwhile, Minister Karunanayake said: “It was the CEB that wanted the power. I’ve stated that I don’t want a single megawatt to be bought. Only ensure there will be no power cuts. It is up to them. But everyone will be held responsible if there will be power cuts.”

“They have to have something. You can’t go to a super market and buy it off the shelves. This is not an unsolicited proposal. Expression of interest was called. There are twenty other companies. Everything is much more than this. And everything will take 540 more days which is one and half years. We can’t wait amidst power cuts for the power to come,” he said.

Responding to the allegations levelled by the “Joint Opposition”, Minister Karunanayake said: “It is the Cabinet which decides. The Opposition is the problem. They should have given an extra amount of megawatts but they didn’t. I won’t bother to purchase a single megawatt. We told the CEB that they are the professionals and they will have to assure us that there won’t be any power cuts.”

It was reported that the Minister had sought Cabinet approval on 20 April to deploy two vessels at Kerawalapitiya and the Galle harbour, each capable of supplying 200 MW. Cabinet intervention had been sought on the basis that the Board of Directors of the CEB and senior officials were reluctant to approve the proposal in view of what Minister Karunanayake described as a “social and legal situation”.