Multiple power sources needed | Sunday Observer

Multiple power sources needed

With the scarcity of water and with no rain in sight a large number of districts in the country are currently facing a drought. This inevitably has affected the country’s power generation which is mainly backed by hydro power. With the diminishing water resources available for hydro power generation it is imperative that the main institutions responsible for power supply weigh the pros and cons of alternative power generation methods.

The Mahaweli officials have now imposed restrictions on hydro power to maintain water levels of Kotmale, Victoria and Randenigala. At present, only 20 percent of the daily demand is met through hydro power.

Water levels at Castlereigh is 75.5%, Maussakaley remains at 74%, Kotmale- 27.1%, Victoria – 15%, Randenigala – 24.6% and Samanala Wewa 23%. A highly placed official of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) said, they are looking at midterm and long term alternatives to meet the demand for electricity.

However, a CEB source says, there is no theoretical deficiency in the electricity supply. Explaining further, he said, provided that all thermal and coal power plants run smoothly, the CEB can meet the demand without any difficulty. The downside is that, at present, the country does not have any backup. So, in the event one of the power plants stops working or if Norochcholai stops one out of their three units for durational maintenance, the power supply is disrupted.

Under the short medium term plan the CEB expects to buy power through competitive bidding from the private sector. “Procuring power through the private sector for a short term should be done until the major power generation projects come into play.

Once the higher capacity diesel, LNG and other renewable power plants come into play, at least by 2020, short term procurements could act as standby power sources,” he said.

It is therefore important and crucial that the proposed power plants are up and running by at least 2022, the CEB source said.

“The difficulty can be attributed, mainly to the non-implementation of the proposed major power plants. The Sampur Coal power plant was initially planned to come into operation by 2016, but the government decided to cancel the project,” he said.

New projects such as, the Kerawalapitiya LNG with a capacity of 300 MW and a new diesel power plant with a capacity of 200 MW are the initial projects expected to contribute to the national grid by 2020.

Director General of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), Damitha Kumarasinghe says, it is crucial to give priority to two aspects to overcome this debacle. First, ensure that the power generation is carried out smoothly at least for the next two months, before the Inter-monsoon rains come into play.With the inter-monsoon rains the hydro power generation which is currently lower than 30 percent of the total power generation will increase but the problem lies with the quantity of rain that can be expected. “Secondly, we must ensure that the fuel supply to the power plants is not disrupted and is continued at any cost,” Kumarasinghe said.

Speaking on demand side management, he explained certain steps that have been taken by the PUCSL in collaboration with the CEB to reduce the demand.

“We encourage our consumers to always opt for energy saving appliances and equipment,” he said stating that electricity usage can be reduced by a considerable amount through this step alone.

Another aspect being considered is changing consumer attitudes towards power conservation.

“The Ministry is currently looking at distributing 10 million LED bulbs among households whose power consumption is less than 90 units. This is targeted more towards low end consumers as they tend to use incandescent bulbs,” says Director Development and spokesperson of the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy, Sulakshana Jayawardana.

Alternatively, the Ministry encourages consumers to opt for solar power for household units. The immediate option that can be opted for under renewable energy is solar power.

However, Sri Lanka does not possess the technology to store power generated through renewables. The cost involved in this does not make the storage of renewable energy economically feasible.

The CEB official who weighed in under anonymity said, to generate one Kilowatt of solar power it costs around Rs.200,000 but at the current rate the technology to store energy so generated would incur an additional cost of Rs.500,000 for the same quantity.

“This is why we always emphasize that we should go in for a power mix. We should be equipped with several power sources and with a vast backup so that the influx doesn’t get affected,” he said.