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Drought, coal plant outage raises Sri Lanka power cut risks

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s power regulator has warned of risks of power shortfalls in early 2017 amid weak rainfall and urged the state-run utility to ensure that all three coal plants are up and running in January.

Three 300 MegaWatt coal plants built by the Chinese in Norochcholai, has slashed costs and also helped avoid power cuts.

The Public Utility Commission of Sri Lanka said a coal plant which is out of action should be up and running by January as all three coal plants  are vital to ensure daily energy demand of 40 GigaWatt hours.

In January power cuts would be inevitable if the system loses about 560MW of thermal power in, the regulator said.

With demand growth the margin will arrow to 500MW in February and just 350MW in March.

"Hence, it is essential to ensure the maximum availability of coal power plants," the regulator said, underlining the value of the coal plants to Sri Lanka’s energy security.

To meet night peak demand at least 550MW of hydro power is also needed.

Sri Lanka however has not received enough rains during the North East Monsoon that falls in the second of the year and the power utility has the lowest storage since 2011.

Sri Lanka should not generate more than 6GWh of energy a day from major hydro reservoirs now if the country is to keep enough water in the upcoming January to April dry season, the regulator warned.

Due to failure of the state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to supply low sulphur fuel oil, a large 300MW thermal plant was not always available, the regulator said.





Due to reduced supply of furnace oil from CPC several private plants were also operating below capacity, the regulator said, putting further pressure on hydro storage.

CPC should ensure that enough supplies of oil is available.

Sri Lanka is heading for a power crisis in the next two years amid strong demand growth and a missed opportunity to renew a number private power plants which were retired after their contracts expired.

The CEB also failed to build an alternative plant in time. The new administration added fuel to the fire by cancelling a 500MW coal plant in Trincomalee, pushing up costs, saying liquefied natural gas will be used instead. (Colombo/Dec11/2016)

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