News

Power generation: Decision on continuous supply this week?

 

  • More productive to have uninterrupted power: Minister
  • Blames black market and hoarders for aggravating issue

By Asiri Fernando

The Cabinet of Ministers will this week discuss a policy plan to provide uninterrupted power using thermal power generation from June, even though the cost of fuel will be difficult to manage, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera said yesterday (21).

According to Minister Wijesekera, the decision may be taken as soon as Tuesday (24) or Wednesday (25). 

Wijesekera said that he had begun discussions with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) on the matter and that the President had also been informed.

“Even though it will be costlier, I feel we should provide the necessary diesel and furnace oil for the CEB to supply uninterrupted power to the public. Unlike a lack of fuel for private vehicles, the loss of power affects each and every community in Sri Lanka. Over the last two weeks we have seen industries and private citizens stockpiling diesel and petrol to power their generators to keep operations going and the use of kerosene has also risen due to power outages,” Wijesekera said.

Responding to a question, Wijesekera explained that some industrial sites had requested over 350,000 litres of diesel for their operations per week, which is used to plug the gap of a three-and-a-half hour power cut.

He stated that when taking into consideration the cost of the quantity of diesel and petrol released for industrial needs and domestic generators, the cost of distribution, the capacity of distribution it makes unavailable for general use, and the social cost of persons waiting in long queues to fill up, spending more to ensure uninterrupted power supply in the short term – until hydroelectricity capacity is increased – was justified.

He also blamed fuel hoarding and stockpiling for the lengthening fuel queues, adding that the Ministry, with the help of the Police, was investigating a sharp rise in black market fuel.

“We have received reports from fuel stations and the public about vehicles, especially three-wheelers and trucks which have large capacity tanks, abusing the fuel they get by selling such stocks on the black market, at times mixed with kerosene – which is a heavily-subsidised fuel – and returning to the queue to refill. This is criminal behaviour and aggravates the fuel supply problem,” he charged.

He said the Ministry had received complaints that ambulances, including those of the Suwasariya programme, were finding it hard to continue uninterrupted operations due to the lack of fuel, adding that some had been asked to wait in the queue to fill up by disgruntled motorists.   

“I think we will need to take a hard policy decision, even though our cost may go up, to provide adequate fuel for the CEB to generate enough electricity using diesel and furnace oil plants. We have to supply fuel and take up distribution to supply them weekly and that means what is supplied to petrol sheds also runs dry sooner than expected,” Wijesekera said.

The Minister also pointed out that academics and parents had requested uninterrupted power supply in the coming weeks due to the upcoming Ordinary Level examinations, which begin tomorrow (23).

Wijesekera told The Sunday Morning that the CEB had requested 50,000 MT of diesel and 63,000 MT of furnace oil per month to generate adequate power, which would eliminate power cuts. 

The requested quantity of fuel is higher than the normal consignment requested by the CEB per month, Wijesekera said, pointing out that use of the fuel was dependent on several factors such as demand, hydropower availability, and operational efficiency of the Norochcholai Power Plant, among others.

“For the State, it is easier and more efficient in the long run to provide the CEB the fuel it needs for uninterrupted power than to supply fuel to power generators dispersed across the country,” he stressed.

When asked about how the State planned to make payments for fuel imports, Wijesekera said that the Government was in discussions with India and China seeking two Lines of Credit like the previous Indian $ 500 million facility for the import of fuel.

Petrol available, says Minister 

Commenting on fuel availability, Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that two petrol shipments, carrying 92 octane and 95 octane petrol, were being unloaded this weekend and would be distributed from tomorrow (23).

One vessel being unloaded had been ordered by the LIOC and one by the CPC. 

A shipment of 39,273 MT of auto diesel is also expected today (22), with two more diesel shipments under the Indian Line of Credit facility expected to arrive within the next 10 days, which will include 37,500 MT of auto diesel. 

Another petrol shipment of an unspecified quantity is also expected to arrive by 30 May.