News

Norochcholai Power Plant : Government scrambles to source $ 20 m for repairs

 

  • Urgent spares for plant to be airlifted
  • Scheduled maintenance next month

 

By Asiri Fernando

The Ministry of Power and Energy and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) are scrambling to source $ 20 million to open Letters of Credit (LCs) needed for the urgent purchase of spare parts essential for the scheduled maintenance of generation units – one at the coal-fired Norochcholai Power Station and others at other power plants.

According to Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera, one unit at the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant is scheduled to be shut down for maintenance, pending the availability of urgently-needed spare parts. Wijesekera dismissed reports that another generation unit was due to commence maintenance.

“There is a scheduled maintenance of one unit at the Norochcholai Power Plant and it is scheduled to start on 18 June. However, we have a problem – we need to find about $ 20 million and open LCs to import parts needed for maintenance of the Norochcholai Plant and other CEB plants across the country. The parts can be airlifted. This amount will include parts and services needed to maintain other power plants too,” Wijesekera explained.

The Minister stated that the Ministry had sought the funds from the CBSL as an urgent need. He noted that if the parts were to arrive by 18 June, the scheduled maintenance could be carried out in a “couple of days.”

However, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Engineers’ Union President Saumya Kumarawadu told The Sunday Morning that the scheduled maintenance programme may take several weeks.

When asked about the impact the unavailability of one unit (275-300 MW) at Norochcholai would have on the ongoing power cuts, Minister Wijesekera said that the proposed plan to provide uninterrupted power to Sri Lanka from next month had taken into account the period in which the coal-fired generation unit would be offline.

“So if the unit is offline, it won’t affect generation plans,” he explained.

The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the CEB, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police, and the then Ministry of Power began multiple investigations into an unplanned shutdown of the Norochcholai Power Plant, which removed 900 MW of power from the national grid, in December last year. 

The then Power Minister Gamini Lokuge, the PUCSL, and the CEB senior management expressed concern that the December 2021 incident, which triggered an islandwide blackout, could have been an act of sabotage. Investigations into the matter are ongoing.