Minister says no power cuts, CEB posts power cut schedule
- Lokuge claims all measures taken to prevent power shortages
Power Minister Gamini Lokuge said yesterday (10) that the public need not be concerned about daily power outages as of now, as “all measures” have been taken to prevent power shortages from taking place in the country, even as the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) published a power cut schedule on its official website.
“Permission was obtained from the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) to go for power outages only in the case of emergencies. As of now, the CEB can function without a power outage. We have three units which are powered by coal, each with a capacity of 300 megawatts (MW). One of those has faced a small emergency these days but it will be fixed by 20 January as engineers from China are already on their way to look at it. The rest of the demand is met through hydropower. We believe that the demand increases this month and we need extra power. We will get that from fuel, through the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). The CEB needs to pay the CPC. This is a debt owed for many years now. We are working to pay them. We need 2,400 MW of power per day. On some days, it increases by 200 MW. We can now face that problem as the CPC is now giving fuel to the Kelanitissa and the Colombo Port Power Stations,” Lokuge said whilst speaking at a press conference held yesterday.
Commenting on the need to make emergency power purchases, Lokuge noted that three agreements which were previously signed for emergency power purchases are awaiting extension.
“However, we have made no decision to extend them as the private sector from which we purchase this emergency power usually requests that an agreement be signed for three years when we only need the power for two or three months. We are in discussions to purchase power through more convenient methods from other companies,” said Lokuge.
Furthermore, Lokuge said that “there is no problem yet” about the import of the required coal for power generation. “By 31 April, we hope to receive all the stocks of coal needed for 2022. We buy from South Africa and from Russia. The most recent tender has been opened with Russia for 4,800 tonnes of coal. We spend about $ 8-10 million per ship and we get two ships a week to the country. The Treasury has given money until the most recent week, so there is no problem there. We usually open letters of credit (LCs) with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), but recently the ship is only loaded with a CBSL guarantee. Until now, there have been no problems there either.”
He further assured that the Government has no plans to increase the consumer price of electricity presently.
Meanwhile, CEB General Manager M. Ranatunga told the media yesterday that the CEB has received enough fuel for five days from the CPC, thus eliminating the need for power outages during the daytime. “We most likely won’t need to go for power outages in January,” he said.
However, a few hours after the press conference, the CEB published a power cut schedule on its official website stating that in the event it is compelled to take demand management measures due to inadequate generation as a result of fuel shortage and unavailability of generators, power cuts will be limited to that schedule.
On 9 January, a senior CEB official told The Morning that the CEB has been asked to pay Rs. 18 billion to the CPC as soon as possible for the purchase of fuel.
The Morning’s attempts to contact Ranatunga, Lokuge, and Power Ministry Secretary Wasantha Perera regarding this matter yesterday proved futile.
Short power outages have been common last week due to the power crisis experienced by the CEB as a result of the lack of fuel to its power stations. However, reports show that the CPC released a stock of 10,000 metric tonnes of furnace oil to the CEB on the night of 7 January to resolve the power crisis.
Meanwhile, PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake has urged electricity consumers to pay their outstanding bills to the CEB as soon as possible.