Power Crisis in Sri Lanka is deeper than that caused by the weather!

Sri Lanka, the island nation has endured widespread energy shortages in the past week as severe drought bites into hydro-electricity production; about a quarter of the island’s electricity is generated by hydro-plants, but capacity is approaching zero after the monsoon failed to bring adequate rains, resulting in unpredictable blackouts and emergency measures to slash usage.

The energy board this week abandoned efforts to stimulate rain through cloud seeding, after earlier attempts failed and in the hope of provoking much-needed rain, pots of water blessed by monks were sent by motorcade to the Bodi, believed to have grown from a sapling of an older tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment more than 2,500 years ago. The Ceylon Electricity Board the state energy provider sought divine intervention to break a crippling power shortage. In the meantime, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka said it would seek legal action against the state-owned Ceylon Electricity Board, after receiving complaints about unscheduled power cuts being imposed across the country.

The Norochcholai generation plant is nothing but a failure as it is under repairs most of the time and is prone to breakdowns, currently contributes to around 40 percent of country’s total electricity supply. Since then construction of coal power plants has been facing heavy resistance from activists. In 2016, the Supreme Court ordered the government to halt the construction of the coal power plant in Sampur, financed by India, on environmental and health grounds. Besides CEB has received a petition to point out the health hazard of this coal power plant, as it is not equipped with sufficient systems to control the fly ash and coal dust and the residuals are spreading to the nearby villages during windy seasons. The issues could easily be prevented using modern technology and it is unethical to maintain the plant working conditions at such a damaging level for the lives of the workers at the plant and the people in the nearby villages. This at a time when the CEB engineers’ trade unions are threatening strikes and are refusing to sit on tender committees for the power plants, since no coal power plants were included in the plan. Because the bulk of Sri Lanka’s future energy generation will be on the more environmentally friendly liquid natural gas (LNG). Yet the CEB engineers continue to bat for coal power plants despite lower externality costs of LNG, whereas the Power regulator, in line with government’s mission, has not included any coal power plants in its long-term generation plan. But, due to the LNG tenders not being processed by the CEB, the country is sitting on the brink of a major power crisis and many billions in losses would be incurred due to cost escalations and sourcing emergency thermal power due to the tender delays.

In this backdrop comes the present power crisis due to adverse weather, the demand for electricity has gone up most houses consume more electricity for fans and air conditions insisting that power supply would return to normal in a few days. But the Government has denied that the country was plagued in a power crisis caused by bad weather; as per the generation plan for 2018 -2038 the Government will meet the growing demand and blamed previous Governments for not adding additional power to meet growing demand.

The Power and Energy Minister says that the government will be informed of the next steps the government will take to resolve the power crisis and the Prime Minister has called on the officers of Sri Lanka Administrative Service to take effective measures to use electricity in an economizing manner at public institutions until the power crisis is resolved and said the Temple Trees will be powered by generators until power crisis ends.

For further reading Visit Northern Breeze:

  1. 2018 Rolling blackouts in Sri Lanka! @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2016/10/07/2018-rolling-blackouts-in-sri-lanka/
  2. Battle for Energy begins in Sri Lanka @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2016/09/23/battle-for-energy-begins-in-sri-lanka/
  3. China Bay Tank Farm  to be renovated!@ https://northernbreeze.blog/2016/08/21/china-bay-tank-farm-to-be-renovated/

As Sri Lanka has no abundant supply of oil deposits and currently depend heavily on the import of oil bearing high costs, which in turn is a major burden on our economy, focusing on renewable energy sources would be a wise investment for the future. The National Energy Policy of Sri Lanka places renewable energy development as a high priority; unlike the past power generation mixes, which has resulted in occasional power crises. The government policy is to move towards more renewable energy and allow the country to move towards 60 percent renewable energy in the long-term.