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CEB implements an emergency power cut management plan

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will be implementing a short term emergency plan to halt power cuts as soon as possible with the involvement of engineers and power sector experts.

Accordingly it has announced a Power Cut Management schedule as an immediate measure , in event the CEB is unable to meet the demand of electricity commencing from today Monday (7) in accordance with this plan.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has issued a directive at a top level meeting recently to take prompt action according to a plan for the implementation immediately and the CEB has been asked to devise the emergency plan, a senior official of the Power Ministry disclosed.

The Finance Ministry has also expressed willingness to contribute their input in the preparation of the emergency plan.

As an immediate solution it has been suggested to expedite the emergency power purchase from private power suppliers as eight out 10 power plants of the CEB have been shut down at present due to lack of furnace oil and naphtha.

Under this set up CEB is to renegotiate the power purchasing agreements to be signed with the two leading power suppliers for a further three years.

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), in keeping with a government decision, decided to call for proposals to buy 200MW of emergency power with immediate effect.

CEB General Manager Rohantha Abeysekera said the need to buy emergency power had arisen and the CEB would do it based on approval granted by the Public Utilities Commissions of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) and the Cabinet.

CEB sources pointed out that the move would be costly as even if the power plants ran or not high-capacity charges would have to be paid to buy emergency power.

Although the CEB had emphasised the need for scheduled power cuts from January, the PUCSL had continuously rejected the move, thus triggering a massive crisis, they said.

The government does not agree to the condition of private power suppliers but the President instructed to discuss this matter again making it compulsory for the ministry to purchase power as and when it is required but not for three years.

New tenders will be called for the purchase of emergency power as the previous tender was cancelled due to the condition put forward by private power providers. .

Two private power purchasing agreements are due to be approved by the Cabinet – one for 100 MW from the Ace Embilipitiya Power Plant and the other for 20 MW from the Ace Matara Power Plant.

The new emergency plan will include immediately restarting the Sapugaskanda oil refinery which was shut down twice in December 2021 and January due to non-importation of crude oil citing the dollar crisis.

Refining crude oil in Sri Lanka was the most economical way for the country because by-products of refining are also vital for the CEB and many industries, a Finance Ministry official said.

He added that the Energy Ministry and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) have been asked to stop the previous practice of trying to find dollars to clear the fuel shipment after its arrival at the port.

The Energy Ministry and the CPC will have to take their actions with responsibility and according to a proper plan of fuel procurement rather than ad hoc measures to go for spot purchases and placing orders without considering availability of foreign exchange until the last minute, he added.

However several senior engineers of the CEB said that it is impossible to do anything now due to the failure of the authorities to heed their advice. They warned that the CEB has no alternative other than imposing 16 hour power cuts per day if the inter monsoon is not activated as expected in April.

They pointed out “if there is no rain in hydro catchment areas hydro power generation would definitely come to a standstill and thereafter nothing can be done.

The Ministry of Energy stated that 30,000 MT of Furnace oil required for Power Plants was expected by March 8.

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