Power outages experienced in many parts of the country of February 3 this year were not due to an emergency situation.  Instead, it was of the manual rotational load shedding type Counterpoint learns.

This is the finding of a committee appointed to investigate the electricity supply interruption between 10.45 a.m. and 17.02 p.m. on February 3.  The six-member committee appointed by the Secretary, Ministry of Power and Energy to investigate the matter, has come to this conclusion following visits to the relevant institutions and after interviewing key officials of the Ceylon Electricity Board, Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, West Coast Power Plant and ACE Power Matara.

CEB officials claimed the interruption was due to non-availability of fuel at the supplementary thermal plants as dues owed by the CEB to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had not been settled.

The committee also examined the Day Ahead Economic Dispatch information, prepared according to plant availability for the next day and the economics of operating same.  According to the Day Ahead Economic Dispatch information for February 2, at 6 a.m. of the 3rd, the total availability had been 2521 MW, without the contribution from any of the supplementary thermal plants.  With nearly 400 MW in excess available for the day time, the committee has concluded, the February 3 situation cannot be termed “emergency situation,” and is a planned load shedding.  As well, the Kotamale, Randenigala and Victoria reservoirs had been available to the CEB during that period, as the reservoirs were not in use for irrigation purposes.  The committee report also notes that on 10th Nov. 2019, 12th Dec. 2019, 20th Dec. 2019, 1st Jan, 2020 and 15th Jan. 2020 the West Coast Power Plant had not been functioning owing to non-availability of fuels, while the Lakvijaya Unit 1 had been shut down for maintenance.  Despite that, uninterrupted power had been supplied on those days.

The usual accepted reasons for power interruptions are planned rotational load shedding type, planned maintenance type, and unplanned emergency type.  The committee report notes, that by resorting to manual load shedding on February 3rd, the CEB has violated the Electricity Act.

In its conclusions and recommendations, the committee states that the CEB must adopt a better ‘work flow’ practice given the nature of the business it is involved in, and re-examine the communication and direct coordination between the CEB, the Ministry of Power and Energy, the CPC and the Treasury, on administrative and financial matters.  Intentional or unintentional, even the minutest error could cost the country billions of rupees, and in this case, the cost to the country was Rs. 118 million according to the committee, as the CEB  had at its disposal 1.4 GWh for dispatch.   A 2018 estimate of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, PUSCL places the cost of unserved energy at US $ 0.745 per kWh.

The committee comprised K. H. D. K. Samarakoon,  Secretary, Ministry of Power and chairman of the committee, Prof. Rahula Attalage,  Dean, Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, E.A. Ratnaseela,  Additional Director General, Department of Public Finance, Dr. D.P. Chandima, Senior Lecturer, Department of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Dr. Lilantha Samaranayake, Senior Lecture, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya,  and  Sulakshana Jayawardena, Director (Development), Ministry of Power and Energy.



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