ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has made a request from the regulator to cut power up to 3.5 hours after a coal power complex went down, an official said.
Director General of the Public Utilities Commission Damitha Kumarasinghe confirmed that a request had been received from the utility to cut up to 2.5 hours in the daytime and one hour in the night for a few days.
The utility can cut a lower time limit, once permission has been given.
The utility has been in the habit of engaging in ‘unofficial load shedding’ without formally informing customers in the past, mostly due to pressure from politicians, much to the dismay of some of its officers.
Sri Lanka’s 900MegaWatt coal power complex is large by the size of the island’s grid, and it has been the saving the customers a lot of money and ensuring power during the dry season.
However, it had also broken down or had been damaged during an emergency shutdown. The trigger for the latest generator shutdown is suspected to have been the tripping or automatic closing off of a transmission line, according to sources at the utility.
When power cannot be taken off the generator, it has to be shut down quickly. The complex needs standby generators to keep emergency cooling systems running. If not, a quick shutdown can damage some components (some of which are designed to blow) and cause fires.
Kumarasinghe said the regulator is in the process of signing agreements with each generating unit to enforce performance standards.
Transmission activities will also be subject to standards, he said.
Kumarasinghe said the regulator will probe the failure.
At least one of the plants are expected to be up and running in two or three days. The third plant may take longer to repair, sources at the CEB say.
Finances of the utility is also weak because politicians and other lobbies have blocked cheap coal plants and forced expensive diesel plants on to the state-run utility and blocked price rises.