Saturday, March 19, 2016

Govt to buy three private power plants

Moves are afoot to purchase power from three privately-owned power plants through a Cabinet Paper to be tabled next week. Authoritative sources confirmed that the government hopes to purchase the 100 Megawatt Heladhanavi power plant in Puttalam, the 100 Megawatt thermal power plant in Embilipitiya and the 60 Megawatt Ace Matara Power Station, as an emergency measure.

However, the Electricity Act. No. 20 of 2009 prevents the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) from purchasing power plants without a competitive bidding process. The only exception to the rule being an energy crisis, yet, it requires Cabinet sanction.

“We are aware of plans to purchase the three plants. We could have purchased them last year at a lower price had the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) not intervened,” Athula Wanniarachchi, Convenor, CEB Engineers’ Union, told the Sunday Observer.

“We are going to purchase them at the highest price, but as engineers, we are not in favour of purchasing the Embilipitiya plant due to technical reasons.”

Consultations are on to set up an ‘Energy Development Board’ next month aimed at restructuring the energy sector through a new bill, to be titled the ‘Development Bill.’
At present, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management is in consultation with stakeholders to draft the Development Bill, scheduled to be presented in Parliament in April. Authoritative sources confirmed that the Bill proposes radical changes to several sectors including power and energy. A Policy Development Board will be set up under the Bill, similar to the once powerful Public Enterprise Reforms Commission (PERC).

“Any move to privatise the CEB will be met with stiff opposition from our end,” Wanniarachchi said. “The CEB is divided into seven business strategic units. Due to our lack of faith in the management of the PUCSL, we are not in favour of privatising or disintegrating the CEB,” he said.

The CEB and the police have launched an investigation into the explosion at the Opatha Grid Sub Station in Minuwangoda. “This is the second time in a week that another station had caught fire,” CEB Chairman Anura Wijayapala said “Our concern at this point is, transformers and the stations.”

CEB Engineers speaking on the basis of anonymity told the Sunday Observer that Japanese manufacturers who handle the ‘tap changers’ of the Biyagama and Opatha Grid Sub Stations are currently in Sri Lanka and are co-ordinating with officials on conducting repairs and to ascertain the cause of the fire.

Moves are under way to expedite construction work at a new National System Control Centre in Colombo at an undisclosed location.

However, work has resumed with the target of completion being January 2017. Officials at the Ministry of Power and Energy alleged that much of the imbalance and mis-coordination among the grid and transmission stations can be resolved through this centre, which will also be Sri Lanka’s first electricity transmission network.

The Ministerial Committee appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena to suggest a mechanism to avoid future power outages met yesterday (Saturday). The Committee is due to present its final report to the President on March 22.

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