N’cholai shutdown to cost CEB dear

By Ifham Nizam

With the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) deciding to shut down the country’s first coal-fired power plant at Norochcholai on Wednesday, August 21, for its long delayed annual maintenance, differing opinions have surfaced on the resulting additional cost to the loss incurring institution. One party claims that the 40-day maintenance would cost the CEB some Rs. 32 billion, while the other says it will not be more than Rs. 12 billion.

CEB Deputy General Manager (Business and Operations Strategy) Senajith Dhanayake told The Island that the CEB would not have to pay Rs. 30 million per day to purchase costly oil-generated power to meet the shortfall.

Dhanayake said that their main focus was on covering the peak load.

However, Consumer Movement Secretary Bandula Chandrasekara stressed that the CEB had to pay between Rs. 72 and Rs. 80 million per day. He said the CEB was already spending Rs. 40 million per day because the 300 MW plant was de-loaded for some time and it had only generated 140 MW to the national grid. The amount would vary as the prices at which Independent Power Producers supply oil generated power––between Rs. 24.00 and Rs. 40.00 per unit.

Chandrasekera, an ex-CEB staffer, said that water levels in catchments would also recede with the ending of the southwest monsoon and there was a possibility that the CEB would have to depend on IPPs during off peak periods too.

Chandrasekera blamed the timing of the shutdown, saying that the CEB lacked strategic planning as it should have gone for the maintenance while most reservoirs were overflowing.

Usually, in countries like India, the maintenance would be done once in five years. "There is something seriously wrong here and there is a need to appoint an independent committee to look into such matters," he stressed.

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