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Huge amounts of water allowed to run off from reservoirs without generating electricity

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By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) had lost nearly eight billion rupees savings due to the lackadaisical attitude of the Dispatch Department, energy experts said yesterday.

The Rantembe, Victoria, Kotmale and Randenigala reservoirs are overflowing. Nearly 350 GWh were lost from Victoria Randenigala and Rantembe as per estimates in November 2021, independent energy expert, Energy Analyst Dr. Vidhura Ralapanawe pointed out. He the figure was much higher when other reservoir overflows were also added, and the CEB dispatch teams had a lot to answer for.

A senior official of the CEB said that they were faced with a number of technical issues in most plants, especially due to the inclement weather. However, he ruled out sabotage for low voltages experienced in some parts of the country.

With downpours, the reservoirs are now spilling over. This could be considered as a loss of revenue to the CEB as water had a value and was lost when spilled without generating power, a retired senior engineer said.

He said that if the CEB was not prepared to go for some sort of demand management which is the cheapest option to meet the ever expanding loads, very costly generation through high cost thermal generation had to be undertaken increasing the losses the utility annually suffered.

“A change in the attitude of the CEB organisation is urgently required to minimise costs to reduce the annual losses. Revision of the tariffs is essential and the CEB must promote lower cost wind and solar power generation, the retired veteran pointed out.

The official stressed the need to implement the government policy of 70% renewables by 2030 urgently. “Costly generation from imported fuel must be reduced as much as possible. To have more variable wind and solar generation, they must plan for storage in the system. This could be both grid storage and behind the meter storage.” The senior official also urged the government to encourage the use of home storage by removing import duty on batteries and encourage local manufacture of the batteries and even solar modules. These must be undertaken urgently so that all costly imported fuel generation could be minimised early, he added.

“The CEB also has a problem with the release of water which is decided weekly by the Mahaweli authority and the Irrigation Department according to their requirements.

“These requirements must also be met by the CEB as most of the Mahaweli Dams have priority for water release for irrigation than for power generation. Providing a highly reliable supply costs extra money. Can we afford this now? Sri Lanka is already short of dollars, and we cannot expect to provide a 100% reliable supply.

“We must be able to identify non-essential loads and must be able to interrupt the supply. The proper tariff will also help in saving energy. It must encourage reducing waste.”

The veteran also insisted that the plan to install rooftop solar free on the dwellings of Samurdhi recipients should be undertaken immediately. A large sum of money given for solar projects by the Indian government had so far not been used. Putting rooftop solar on all government buildings and schools should be done immediately, he said.

The CEB could be faced with the problem of lack of substation capacity and higher voltage in the Long LT lines, but there are many technical solutions to these problems. Active involvement of the universities to find low costs solutions must be pursued and in a well-planned manner, these must be implemented urgently, he stressed.

Much research done in the universities is not put into practice by the utility due to poor attitudes. What is required is effective management at the CEB. It was unfortunate the promotion by seniority only resulted in getting General Managers of the CEB who remain in office for a short period. “So, the tendency is just to manage the business of the utility till one retires without taking on a challenging task which could result in losing the job,” the senior engineer added.

He said he believed that promotion by performance was a difficult exercise, which may be influenced by politics. “A properly balanced system needs to be developed to have good performers to be promoted quickly and at the same time must provide the staff in different positions proper training so that they can perform well in doing their task. It will take time and must constantly work towards this effectively, which will need effective management at the CEB with no political intervention.”



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely

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By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted

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Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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