To avert crisis : Re-commissioning stalled power plants vital - Energy expert | Sunday Observer

To avert crisis : Re-commissioning stalled power plants vital - Energy expert

There will be no end to the power crisis in the country unless two to three large scale power plants are commissioned to meet national demand, which is growing at a steady pace, said a top energy expert in the country.

According to him, the current crisis could be short-lived, if policy makers are serious about getting the power plants that have stalled, into operation. Plans for the 300MW combined-cycle LNG power plant at Kerawalapitiya and the Sampur coal power station, are on hold. Although the operation of the Kerawalapitiya power plant has been delayed by controversy after controversy, the MoU for the first 500MW phase of the Sampur power plant was signed way back in 2006.

Resource Management Associates (Pvt) Ltd. Managing Director Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya said he does not see an early end in sight to the present power crisis, as with most of the previous crises.

“If I am able to see two to three major power plants being commissioned with people working on sites, then I could say the present crisis is a short lived one.

“But it is not so. All the power plants to be commissioned under the long term plan have been cancelled or manipulated by various arms of the government. Therefore, the business community and the country as a whole will have to put up with never ending power problems in the form of either power cuts, or electricity price increases. The crisis will most likely contribute to increases in taxes,” Dr. Siyambalapitiya said.

Elaborating on the situation, he said that even though the present power crisis was expected last year, it was camouflaged by running oil power plants at an enormous cost to the country.

 But, with the growth in demand for power and the government running out of funds, and being reluctant to present the actual picture to the people, power cuts became inevitable this year.

“We are now into the third week of power cuts but still none of the decisions for long term power generation has been taken,” Dr. Siyambalapitiya said, adding that on the positive side, the building of the power plant in Trincomalee (which was cancelled in 2016 amidst protest by the CEB and other engineers), putting an end to the ball game on the terminal for the import of LNG, and an end to the haggling that has been going on for two years on the Kerawalapitiya power plant, will all help ward off the recurrence of a power crisis in the future.

He said after the decisions on these projects are firmly in place with a task force to monitor their progress, what has to be done in the three to four-year interim period until the projects materialise has to be decided, which inevitably will mean we have more oil power plants producing electricity - at three times the present cost.

“The Chambers of Commerce which should be representing the concerns of their members are not doing their job. Instead they are busy promoting the business interests in power generation among their members,” Dr. Siyambalapitiya said, adding that renewable energy could only supplement the energy needs at best, and can never fully meet the demand. No country could fully meet its energy demand solely through renewable sources, which have inherent limitations. We need to focus on implementing the long term projects first and then bridge the shortfall using renewables.”

According to the CEB the electricity demand in the country has grown to around 47 Gigawatts per hour due to the prevailing warm weather and as a result an additional 4GW/H are needed to meet the demand.

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) says that not a single power plant has been commissioned since 2014. Last week the CEB signed an agreement to purchase power from an independent power producer.