What is this Power Crisis?
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What is this Power Crisis?

Background

With the commencement of the Lakwijaya power station in early 2011 power generation capacity was lifted to a higher level like never before in Sri Lanka. Accordingly theinstalled capacity of the power plants is now increased to 2700 MW. Currently the peakpower load in the country is less that 2000MW. Therefore taking the installed capacity of power plants into consideration there cannot be a shortage of power.

At the beginning of 2011 there was ample water in the reservoirs in the catchments areas. During the first three months adequate rain was experienced, enabling the smooth operation of power generation. At the beginning of April and the onset of south western monsoonal rains the storage of reservoirs were adequate to produce 775 GWh of electricity, which is higher than that in 2009 (278 GWh) and 2010 (517 GWh). Therefore the additional generation of hydro power during January to March this year has no bearing on the current power crisis.

Crisis

By the end of June the hydro power storage in the reservoirs has reduced to 350 GWhwhich is around 29% of the total capacity. By yesterday the capacity had dropped furtherto 294.5 GWh. The current electrical energy requirement of the country is around 32 GWhper day. Taking this current requirement into consideration and the water levels in the reservoirs, this capacity will only be sufficient to cater to the power requirement of the country for less than a  month. Therefore if rains are not experienced within the next month hydro power generation will not be possible. Hence not only will it be impossible to meet the power requirement during peak hours, it will also be impossible to meet the country’s daily electrical energy requirement as well.

Reasons for the crisis

There are 3 main reasons for the power crisis:

  1. The reduction in south western monsoon rains which provides adequate water to the reservoirs. Taking into consideration the average amount of rains experienced during the month of June there is a decline of 70%  in rainfall this year.

This situation arose especially during the months of May and June. The climate changes around the world where rains are experienced in abundance during dry seasons and drought experienced during normally rainy periods have become a disturbing reality. This phenomenon was amply experienced during this year.  Moreover monsoon rainfall was experienced not in the higher elevation areas where springs generate water which feeds the main reservoirs but in the low lying populated areas. Meteorologists have cited the changes in the wind pattern for this difference. If rains are not experienced within this month even providing clean pipe bourn water will be an arduous task. Therefore if we are to avoid a crisis situation, we need to use water sparingly.

  1. Issuing of water for cultivation in the Yala season.

Even with the reduction in rainfall, with the influx of farmers seeking to cultivate their land after the war, adequate amounts of water had to be released to meet their agricultural requirements.

  1. The inability to generate the anticipated power output from the Putlam “Lakwijaya” coal power station and  the Kerawalapitiya combined cycle powerplant.

While the Lakwijaya power plant was scheduled to commence operation at the beginning of this year, it was expected to add  720 GWh of power to the National Grid during the first 6 months of this year, but due to the delay in commencement  and the technical faults experienced it was only able to add 265 GW of energy to the National Grid. Furthermore due to technical difficulties and the fuel supply related issues which arose at the Kerawalapitiya combined cycle Power plant, of the 670 GWhpower generation expected from this power plant, only 275 GWh of energy wasgenerated. Hence between these two power plants around 850 GWh of energy was lost. Furthermore due to technical difficulties at the Embilipitiya oil fired power plantand the Kelanitissa combined cycle power plant, the total plant capacity has reduced. Due to these difficulties and uncertainties and with the escalating power demand in the country the CEB system control unit was forced to curtail power intermittently in a bid to prevent the entire country plunging into darkness.

The Ministry of Power and Energy who focused their attention on the escalating power demand around 2007, informed the cabinet of an impending power crisis around 2010 -2012. However due to the power generation of the Putlam coal power station which was due to be added to the national grid in 2012 being operational in 2011, alternative power generation methods were abandoned.

Even with the reduction of water levels in the reservoirs, if the Lakwijaya and Kerawalapitiya power plants had operated according to plan during May and June, water levels could have been maintained at commendable levels, thus preventing the country from facing a power crisis. Furthermore the government would have been in a satisfactory financial position with the low cost of power generation from these two power stations.

We hereby render our sincere apologies to the consumers for the difficulties faced by them during this recent power crisis. However from the 10th of June the CEB has been able to supply electricity without any disruptions, due to the Lakwijaya Coal power plant generating electricity without hindrance. The Minister of Power and Energy has informed the Ceylon Electricity Board to inform the public of any future power shredding ahead of time in the event of any technical issues that may arise at any of these power stations.

Solutions

The Kerawalapitiya Power station is currently operating at full capacity as a result of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation supplying them with the requirement of specialfuel. The Chinese firm is currently addressing the technical issues which arose at the Lakwijaya Power station. If the Putlam Lakwijaya and the Kerawalapitiya Yugadanaw power plants operate according to plan in the future, there will not be an issue in meeting the power demand until the rains arrive. With these two power plants, the hydro power stations will only be required to operate around 2 hours a day to meet the peak demand, and the current water levels in these reservoirs will suffice to meet that requirement.

In the future measures such as, utilizing the water in the reservoirs sparingly, uninterrupted supply of fuel for the thermal power plants, resolving of technical issuesof thermal power plants, implementing plans to optimally utilize the embedded generators, and focusing people’s attention on ways of energy conservation are some methods that can be implemented to avert a future power crisis. In a bid to avert such a situation Hon. Minister Champika Ranawaka has appointed a committee whichconsists of representatives of relevant Ministries and meets on a daily basis, to oversee the power generation process and avert future issues.

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