COLOMBO, Dec 05, 2014 (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s utility regulator says it plans to introduce audit guidelines for power generation, the cost of which is subject to huge daily variations and totals 160 billion rupees a year.
Damitha Kumarasinghe, Director General of the Public Utility Commission of Sri Lanka, said the dispatch of power from the island’s numerous plants changes due to weather patterns and availability of hydropower.
"The daily dispatch cost can vary between 50 to 600 million rupees," he said. "The hydro dispatch varies between 150 to 700 GWh (GigaWatt hours) a month and the thermal dispatch varies between 150 to 900 GWh a month.
"These are huge variations. So the challenge is how to optimize this system."
Dispatch planning guidelines and related software are required to handle the complexities of Sri Lanka’s system to enable proper monitoring.
"We buy 160 billion rupees worth of electricity a year," Kumarasinghe said. "So it’s important to have auditing guidelines for such a large sum which the PUCSL is now doing."
This was a specialized auditing function unlike normal financial auditing.
The annual cost of electricity hit 200 billion rupees in 2012 for the first time when drought forced heavy reliance on high-cost oil-fired power. This was about 50 percent more than the cost in 2010.
The variation of generation systems results in cost variations, Kumarasinghe told an energy forum organised by the Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat and University Grants Commission.
Generation cost is 80 percent of electricity cost with hydro power considered to be generated at zero cost, coal at seven rupees per kilowatt hour, oil at 25 rupees and gas turbines the most expensive at 60 rupees.
The system has 900MW of coal power and 1,361MW of hydro.
"So the availability of hydro and coal is crucial in the dispatch to optimize cost," Kumarasinghe said.
The year 2012 was a "bad hydro" year while 2013 was an "extremely good hydro year, which we’ve not had for 10 years," he said, adding that 2014 is a "typical" hydro year.
"So the cost heavily depends on these hydro scenarios," he said. "It’s important we have a system to reduce this variation and reduce cost. Demand also plays a big role. The issue is optimization."
This was affected by the multiple demands on the hydro system with low priority given o electricity.
Priorities were drinking water, irrigation, flood control and then only electricity, Kumarasinghe said.