Despite repeated assurances by the present and former Power & Energy ministers that power-cuts were events of the past, the country continued to experience ‘blackouts’ in the form of unofficial power-cuts.
With the Advanced Level examination a month away, residents complain that education activities have been affected, while industries claimed their production too has slowed down due to the unannounced power-cuts.
Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) employees confirmed to the Sunday Times that they have been told to switch off power in certain areas, in order to meet shortfall in power supplies.
CEB Switch Board Operators Union president S.B. Nishantha told the Sunday Times that usually, sudden instructions come to switch off power in a particular area for two to two-and-a-half hours.
“For instance, we had an unofficial two-and-a-half-hour power-cut in Horana on Thursday,” he added.
He said that, throughout the country, ‘unofficial power-cuts’ were being imposed at different times.
“But, we have been told to avoid the Industrial Zones, as production may be affected,” he said.
However, residents who experienced power-cuts were told by their regional offices that what they were experiencing were ‘power failures’ and not ‘power-cuts’.
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Ms. Jeewani Ranasinghe, a resident of Hendala, told the Sunday Times that whenever the area experienced power-cuts, the workers at the sub-station on Hekitta road said that it was a ‘power failure’, and that, power would be restored as soon as possible.
“But, what was strange was that, power is restored exactly two hours later. It is difficult to assume that repairs always take exactly two hours to complete,” she added.
CEB officials speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the Board was still short of some 500 Mw per day, of the average requirement of 2,000 Mw required, and were forced to impose power-cuts.
Power & Energy Minster Patali Champika Ranawaka told the Sunday Times that there was a shortfall in power production, but the figure was around 200 Mw short, which prompted the ‘power failures’.
Mr. Ranawaka said that no power-cuts were imposed, but it was due to technical defects that the ‘failures’ were experienced.
Minister Ranawaka said that the situation had risen due to problems faced at the Norochcholai and Kerwalapitiya power plants. “We had a production capacity of 300 Mw in Norochcholai, as there was a problem of overloading, while Kerawlapitiya also lost 300 Mw, as the plant was shut down due to the unavailability of fuel and thereafter technical problems were experienced,” he said.
“There are other plants which experienced problems. Two CEB plants at Kelanitissa with capacities of 65 Mw and 115 Mw, also experienced problems, while in Embilipitiya, another private power plant also experienced a breakdown,” he said.
He said that the problems were experienced within a period of one week, and therefore, the CEB lost about 1,000 Mw. “We are carrying out an investigation about the sudden breakdown of these plants,” he said.
He said that, in addition, the hydropower plants too were affected with the drop in water levels in the reservoirs.
He reiterated that what people experienced were ‘power failures’ when repairs were being carried out.
Minister Ranawaka called on the public to reduce electricity usage during peak hours at night, until the situation is stabilised.
However, Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya president, Ranjan Jayalal told the Sunday Times that the government appeared to have mishandled the power production situation.
“When the country experienced heavy rains in the past, the reservoirs around the hydropower stations reached spill level, and the government started relying solely on hydropower. During this period, the private power producers were neglected, and their dues were not paid. As a result, some of them started carrying out routine maintenance of their power plants,” he said.
When the rains ceased after a while, the CEB found that the situation had not been anticipated.
“Now it is a situation where the Government has to seek the assistance of the private power producers”, he said.He said that, on the pretext of power fail.
ures, the CEB was imposing power-cuts, inconveniencing the public, prompting complaints.
“The Government should be truthful and explain the situation to the public, and announce the power-cuts. It is unfair by the people to impose unofficial power-cuts, as they will not be able to organise their work,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Engineers Union told the Sunday Times that, as the water levels in the reservoirs were dropping, power-cuts may have to continue.“All the power required cannot be generated by thermal power alone,’’ he said.