CEB losses rise with drop in reservoir levels

Thermal power replaces hydropower as South West monsoon fails to deliver
By Hansani Bandara

The receding water levels in the reservoirs are further pushing up power generation cost, officials said yesterday.“Though the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is in a position to provide uninterrupted electricity service as of now, no predictions can be made of the future.

However, we will do our utmost to avoid power cuts and tariff increases,” CEB Chairman Wimaladharma Abeywickrama told the Sunday Times.

Power and Energy Ministry spokesman, Dhanushka Ramanayake said that the CEB has to incur a loss on every unit it produces, because the end cost to its consumers is subsidised.

He added that, due to low rainfall, 85.2% of the electricity generated is by thermal power, while the balance 14.8% is by hydropower, whereas, previously, these percentages were 80% and 20% respectively.

“During early May this year, due to the rainfall received, the generation of hydropower electricity increased up to 23%, but has declined due to the prevalent dry weather conditions,” he said. The total active storage in the hydropower reservoirs has come down to 25%, he said.

“At present, we are able to provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity through thermal power stations. However, considering the cost factor, this is higher than hydropower generation, and the CEB has to incur an increased loss which we consider as a subsidy,” he said.

The cost of production per a unit of electricity, via thermal power, is Rs. 21.11, while it is sold at Rs. 15.27 incurring a loss of Rs. 5.88 per unit. This price is reduced further for factories, where a unit of electricity is sold at Rs. 14.27, resulting in a loss of Rs. 6.87 per unit.

He further confirmed that the CEB has no intention of imposing power-cuts to offset the increased cost, nor will there be any tariff increases in the near future. However, since the global oil market price fluctuations cannot be predicted, there is no guarantee that there will be no price increases.

Emphasising the fact that the only practical mitigation to this problem is electricity conservation, Mr. Ramanayake was of the view that it is imperative that consumers minimise wastage as much as possible. He also said that several programmes are being conducted by the Ministry of Power and Energy to educate the public on the importance of energy conservation.

“Not only Sri Lanka, but the whole world is facing an energy crisis, and according to latest research, it is likely that, in another 30 years, the earth will run out of coal. It is the responsibility of all of us to conserve electricity and energy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Meteorology Department Director General H.S. Kariyawasam said that, since the south-west monsoon conditions are currently prevalent, rain can be expected in the Western, Sabaragamuwa, Central provinces, and in the Matara and Galle areas.

High winds can be expected in coastal areas and on the western and central slopes of the hills.
He also added that drizzles could be experienced in the Hambantota and Puttalam areas. “The water levels in the hydropower reservoirs have gone down due to the prevalent dry conditions,” he said.

At present, the active storage levels have dropped to 20.22% in the Victoria reservoir, 30.01% in the Kotmale reservoir and 30.98% in the Randenigala reservoir, he said.

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