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Govt. unveil plans to build solar power based national mini-grid



Apart from LNG plants in the pipeline


As the demand-supply gap in Sri Lanka’s power generation sector continues to widens, the government announced plans for an ambitious solar power based national mini-grid that extends to villages. This is apart from the LNG plants in the pipeline.

Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Eng. Vijitha Herath said that on completion, the proposed solar network is expected to offer a unit of electricity 45% lower than electricity produced from existing solar powered networks.

Former Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who is also the Chairman of Sri Lanka’s Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival and Poverty Alleviation, has instructed the CEB to construct 100-kilowatt solar power plants and connect them to 7,250 transformers across the country within the next three years.

A key feature of the project is that it is fashioned on the support of villagers at local level. The village level credit and finance institutions such as Samurdhi Banks, Rural Banks, Cooperative Societies and Community Network projects are also considered as key investors in the project which calls for an estimated Rs. 10 million (USD 56,000) investment.

Competitive bidding is to be called soon, according to official sources, who also revealed the projected 1,000MW can be obtained at Rs. 12 per unit, 45% lower than the 300MW of solar energy obtained at Rs. 22 per unit for the last five years.

The project, which is in line with the CEB and Lanka Electricity Company’s (LECO) project to connect 10,000, 100 kW solar power plants to the Distribution Transformer Network, will integrate 7,250 transformers from the 35,000 transformer network installed across the country.

In Sri Lanka, the gap between the demand and supply of power is fast becoming unbridgeable. According to CEB estimates, Sri Lanka’s electricity demand is expected to grow at 5.3 percent on average in the 2015 – 2034 period, in addition the peak demand is expected to grow at 4.7 percent on average.

With the average cost of generation at Rs. 23 and the selling price at Rs. 16, the CEB finds hard to bridge the gap. This trend had been continuing for more than four years.  

A senior Electrical Engineer said the CEB cannot go on with expensive diesel and emergency power and should stick with the proposed Long Term Generation Plan.

CEB’s Long-Term Generation Expansion Plan encompasses LNG-fired combined cycle power plants and associated LNG import infrastructure – 2×300 MW dual fuel combined cycle power plants to be commissioned in the western region by 2022.

The associated LNG importing infrastructure is to be developed on a fast track process with sufficient capacity to cater to both the new power plants and the conversion of other oil-fired combined cycle power plants in the western region.

Furthermore, an additional 3×300 MW natural gas combined cycle power plants are expected to be commissioned by 2026 in either Kerawalapitiya or Hambantota.

Power and Energy Minister Dallas Alahapperuma said that during the last five years, only 300MW were added to the national grid, although the demand for electricity is growing at 6% on an annual basis.

Lanka Transformers Limited (LTL), which will own a majority stake has received Cabinet approval for the construction. The power plant with a capacity of 300MW (extending up to 350MW) to be commenced at the Lakdanavi Power Plant premises in Kerawalapitiya in December after the Power Purchase Agreement signed later this month.

The first phase of plant, the open cycle 225 MW, will be completed in 21 months and 125MW Combined Cycle would be completed in one year, a senior Electrical Engineer told The Sunday Island.

He said that the government should go all out to call for tenders to bring LNG at the earliest, rather than waiting till the plants are completed. “This is a crucial process that cannot be taken lightly,” he added

At present, about 35 percent of Sri Lanka’s national power generation comes from diesel power plants where the cost of production per unit is as high as Rs. 30. LNG power plants can reduce the cost up to Rs. 15 per unit.



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Sajith blames ‘Viyathmaga doc’



Cause of Mahara Prison riot:

By Saman Indrajith

The recent Mahara Prison riot erupted as 120 inmates afflicted with COVID-19 had been taken there from the Welikada prison at the behest of a Director in charge of prisoners’ health, who was a Viyathmaga member, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday.

“Many explanations have been given by ministers about the riot at Mahara Prison. The number of deaths is not yet known and around 120 are wounded. One minister said that there was an invisible hand behind the clashes. Another said the motive was to bring the government into disrepute internationally. A theory was concocted that prisoners had taken some narcotic tablets called Reverse and they and fought because they wanted to see blood. But the truth is otherwise. The real cause is that 120 inmates infected with coronavirus were transferred to Mahara from the Welikada prison at the behest of a director in charge of prisoners’ health. That director is a member of the Viyathmaga. Those who were transferred to Mahara prison caused a cluster of 183 persons. As the infection spread fast there was unrest and tension. That was the reason for Mahara riots.”

He said that ministers had their own theories, but one day the truth would surface. “I hope that the ministerial committee appointed to probe the riots will conduct an impartial investigation and they will reveal the truth.”

“Prisoners have rights. I do not wish that this country would permit the perpetuation of the killing culture and state terrorism. The government members should keep in mind that there is a concept called rule of law and we all are expected to uphold it. So, we should dump those theories of Reverse tablets and strive to find the truth.”

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera: The health officer in charge of Mahara Prison is not a member of Viyathmaga.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: I did not say so. What I said was that 120 inmates were transferred from Welikada prison to the Mahara prison violating COVID-19 protocols. That order to transfer those had been given by a doctor who is a member of Viyathmaga. I do not mention his name. You can easily find it.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that the Opposition leader talked of lofty ideals of prisoners’ welfare but the yahapalana government had failed to construct at least a single prison to ease the congestion in the prisons. “When I was incarcerated by your government, I was in a cell with 51 other inmates. There was no place to sleep. In the Kegalle prison, they put 225 in a hall enough for 50 inmates. The former government pre-occupied with the task of constructing new courts to imprison its political enemies but did not build a single prison for the benefit of inmates.”

Opposition Leader Premadasa: We did not want to build prisons, we built schools. Mahatma Gandhi has once said that when you open a single school, thousand prisons could be closed. We followed that.

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‘It will take four years to ensure quality of drinking water from small projects’



By Saman Indrajith

The safety of drinking water from small scale community drinking water projects could guaranteed only after the implementation of a project to check the quality of water and that would take four years, Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara told Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said so, when Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana pointed out that although the safety of drinking water from the National Water Supply and Drainage Board was guaranteed the same could not be said of water from small scale projects.

“There are many harmful elements in water such as lead, cadmium and mercury. We know that Water Board supplied water is purified, but water from small scale project could be contaminated with them. It is said that mercury in a CFL bulb has the potential to pollute around 6,000 litres of ground water and causing kidney diseases. This is a dangerous situation. One trillion rupees have been allocated for the Water Supply ministry. Apart from the COVID-19 threat, the biggest threat to the lives of people in this country is from non-communicable diseases. Can the ministry introduce a mechanism to provide each district with at least a single testing unit to ensure the safety of drinking water supplied by the small scale community drinking water projects.”

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that safety of water from the Water Board was guaranteed owing to sophisticated purification methods employed by treatment plants. He said that it would take at least four years to provide testing units to ensure drinking water from the small scale community drinking water projects countrywide too is safe from harmful elements.

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Teachers’ Union boss Stalin accuses govt of attempting Akila’s failed stunt



By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was an attempt to create a new post, Director General – Sports, at the Ministry of Education and to appoint a political henchman, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin told The Island yesterday.

“According to the Education Administrative Service minute, any appointment has to be made through a competitive exam. However, this post has been created through a Cabinet paper and an SLPP henchman is to be appointed to it.”

The CTU General Secretary said that during the yahapalanaya administration, then Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had tried to appoint a UNP henchman to the post of Director – Sports at the Ministry. Kariyawasam had been compelled to back off due to the stiff opposition of the education sector unions, Stalin said.

“The court has also ruled that people should be appointed in keeping with the Education Administrative Service Minute. The President came into power promising to uphold the rule of law, but this government, too, is attempting to undermine the education system by appointing unqualified people to high posts.”

The post of Director General – Sports would have the same perks of an Assistant Secretary and the person to be appointed was a person representing a government affiliated union, Stalin said.

“95% of unions of the education sector will oppose if the government creates this post for the benefit of a henchman. We will resort to trade union and legal action.”

Minister of Education, Prof. G. L. Peiris was not immediately available for comment.

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