CEB engineers warn against rushing to commission 3rd N’cholai plant


By Ifham Nizam

Advancing the commissioning date and the construction of the third Lak Wijeya coal power plant complex at Norochcholai could lead to losses running into billions of rupees as happened with the first plant, senior Ceylon Electricity Board engineers warned yesterday.

The Island reliably learns that earlier this week Power and Energy Ministry Secretary M. M. C. Ferdinando decided to commission the third plant before the end of this year, even though its scheduled date of completion is July 2014.  

Engineers told The Island yesterday that under the Phase II of Norochcholai, two plants, (300 MW X 2) would be commissioned, the first of which is expected to be completed next September.

A senior engineer said they were waiting to take up the matter with the Ministry Secretary when he they met him shortly.

"Plants should not be commissioned in a hurry without conducting proper tests. The first plant, too, had numerous problems and losses ran into billions of rupees because its commissioning, too, was advanced," he added.

The total cost of the three plants, along with the other components like cable network, would cost USD 1.3 billion, out of which USD 455 million was allocated for the First Phase.

The government spent Rs. 5,300 million for the First Phase of the project and the Chinese government contributed a loan of USD 455 million, out of which USD 155 million was given at a low interest rate of two per cent while the balance USD 300 million was given at an interest rate of six per cent.

The contract agreement for the Second Phase of the project was signed between China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (EMEC) and the CEB in June 2009.

The Chinese contribution for the Second Phase is USD 891 million funded by Chinese government through EXIM bank of China and the rupee funding is by the government of Sri Lanka.

Senior CEB officials expressed doubt about the ability of the 45-billion-rupee Lak Wijeya Coal Power plant, in Norochcholai, to provide an uninterrupted power supply.

They said that the Board had lost some four billion rupees due to the breakdowns at the plant last year alone.

Despite numerous attempts to contact Power and Energy Minister Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi and Secretary, M. M. C. Ferdinando, they were not available for comment.

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