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Sri Lanka faces power cut risks by end March

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could face power cuts by March in the driest month of the year after a coal plant which was about to be built was cancelled under environmentalist pressure and a tender for a 300 Megawatt diesel plants ended up in court.

Sri Lanka is moving into the driest months of the year in February and March, amid weather warnings that the tropical island is likely to receive lower than average rainfall in the first quarter.

Power Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has told the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to use water sparingly as Sri Lanka could face power shortages by the end of March, a ministry statement said.

However, data shows that the CEB is already using water sparingly and is maximising thermal power.

On Sunday, Mahaweli hydro generated only 13.56 per cent of the total 35.7 Gigawatt hours (millions of units) of energy, while coal generated 29 per cent. CEB oil plants generated 13 per cent and private thermal plants 25 perc ent.

The Mahaweli complex is mainly used for night peaking and not for base load.

The Laxapana complex generated 8.98 per cent and Kukule 0.61 per cent. The two plants are mostly run-of-the-river or powered by small ponds, which have little or no storage to keep water for long periods.

Water releases at many reservoirs are mostly determined by irrigation needs.

The CEB has built up as much storage as possible during the latter stages of 2019, by running thermals and minimising hydro generation.

By now the CEB had 1,018GWh of water, or about 85 per cent of capacity compared to about 800GWh last year.

Sri Lanka’s daily energy demand is also high in these months due to above-average warm weather, which make customers use air conditioners and fans.

The CEB is, however, taking all possible steps to avoid power cuts, an official said.

The CEB is also extending short term power contracts and is in the process of getting 200MW of extra power to avoid cuts in March. Inter-monsoonal rains come in April.

One CEB coal plant is down at the moment and a 165MW oil-fired combined cycle is also shut down for repairs. CEB’s GT7 gas turbine will also be shut for a scheduled repair. (Colombo/Jan13/2020)