Power outages will be inevitable in the ensuing years causing colossal losses to the economy due to the delay in the construction and implementation of the proposed power generation plants according to the approved Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan (LCLTGEP), energy sector experts said.
They said the country needs an installed capacity of 1,250 MW of power in the next three years which makes the implementation of the proposed power generation plants imperative.
At present, the installed capacity is 4,000 MW. Of the power plants proposed to be constructed, eight main plants would have a capacity of around 650 MW and another 650 MW from eight renewable energy plants.
Given the increase in demand for energy in the country each year, think tanks have cautioned policymakers to urgently address the issue to avert blackouts in the near future, which would result in huge losses to industries and inconvenience to households.
The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the regulator for the power sector, issued a directive to the Ceylon Electricity Board, the transmission licensee, on November 18 expressing its grave concerns over the delay in implementing the power generation plan for 2017-2020.
The directive requests the CEB to provide reasons for deviating from the approved LCLTGEP for each and every power plant, provide a report on the impact of the power situation during ... 2017-2020 due to the deviation, offer solutions to meet electricity demand, in the event there is an impact on continued power supply during the 2017-2020 period due to the delay and furnish evidence to the Commission that Transmission Licensee is not likely to contravene section 24 of Sri Lanka Electricity Act No 20 of 2009(as amended) and Condition 30 of Electricity Transmission and Bulk Supply Licence Number EL/T/09-002, before November 29. The PUCSL approved the LCLTGEP on September 15 this year.
In its directive, the regulator stated it is the sole responsibility of the transmission licensee to adhere to the approved LCLTGEP and take immediate steps to implement it, given the criticality of the power supply during 2017-2020. PUCSL Director General Damith Kumarasinghe said the objective of the LCLTGEP is to ensure that the electricity demand in the future is met with the timely construction of power plants for 2017-2020 to avert possible power issues during the period.
However, CEB’s recent communication to PUCSL reveals a major time gap with the implementation plan compared to approved LCLTGEP. Vital plants for the three-year period have been delayed up to two years which would result in the failure to meet the electricity demand and provide uninterrupted power.‘We are waiting for the response from the CEB and then take action according to the issued raised by the Board” Kumarasinghe said. ‘When quipped about what would be the next step if the CEB fails to meet the deadline to respond to the directive Kumarasinghe said the PUCSL will be compelled to resort to legal action for the benefit of the country.
When contacted CEB General Manager Y.M. Samarasinghe said that the CEB will respond to the letter sent by the PUCSL and added that many of the power plants at its implementation stage.
“We have requested all the branches to respond soon” Samarasinghe said.
With regard to a power shortage in 2017 Samarasinghe said there is not be a shortfall in 2017.
He said if there is an impact due to the delay the PUCSL will come up with an alternative strategy for the CEB to implemnet to mitigate impact of a power shortage in the next three years. A demand side management program is vital.
“The should be an alternative plan to inject energy to the system in the next three years. An easy and quicker way to mitigate the impact of a power shortage is to go for wind, solar and diesel plants in small scale. Mini solar plants could be installed on a commercial basis encouraging foreign investors in the sector. could come in” Kumarasinghe said.
Tapping hydro power even through small plants is not feasible as all avenues to generate power has been exhausted.
When asked about the cost electricity rising further with an imminent power crisis due to the delay in commissioning the power plants he said if the country has to supply power quickly there would be a premium to pay.
With regard to cautioning the CEB of an impending crisis he said the PUCSL had caution the CEB on the issue on several occasion.
Energy experts said the country will be plunged in to a power crisis due to the non implementation of the coal power plant in the East .
There has not been any construction of a large scale power plant in the recent past although demand for energy has increased steadily over the years.