Environmental regulator raises serious concerns:

PUC grants conditional approval for CEB’s plan

Rukshana Rizwie

While environmental regulator of the power sector have raised serious concerns over the new inclusions, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has granted conditional approval for an interim generation plan submitted by the Ceylon Electricity Board. 

The point of contention in the CEB’s interim generation plan is the inclusion of five new coal power plants, despite strong resistance from the environmental regulator. 

Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Limited which has already filed a case in Supreme Court over the proposed coal power plant in Sampur said they were concerned over the new inclusivity. 

“EFL is concerned that at a time when the rest of the world is phasing out coal power plants, we have not shifted our focus to meet our immediate and long term energy requirements through renewable sources,” an official said.

In a letter submitted to the PUCSL on July 27th undersigned by M.C Wickramasekera, General Manager of the CEB, the board has enlisted five new coal power plants as part of the Base Case Plan for the year 2017-2036. The CEB notes that the board awaits a policy directive from the government on whether to proceed with these proposed power plants which are to be developed in Sampur.

“These power plants are to be developed at Sampur, if permission is granted by the Government of Sri Lanka. Otherwise new location is to be found,” the report reads.

However, when the EFL case was taken up in Supreme Court, their counsel K.Kanglsvaran told courts that they had learnt the government had taken a policy decision to convert the proposed Coal power plant into a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant but wanted an assurance that it would be done. The next hearing has been fixed for September 5th.

The PUCSL however has directed the CEB to furnish a Long Term Generation Plan for 2015-2034 or the entire 2017-2036 with sufficient justification for skipping the 2015 plan by September 1st this year.

 In an attempt to overcoming a looming power crisis in the year 2018, the CEB has also proposed that the 35 megawatt Broadlands and 120 megawatt Uma Oya hydro power plant be in operation by the year 2018.

Thermal additions include five new coal power plants. The report notes that the coal power plants are to be developed at Sampur, if permission is granted by the government, otherwise a new location is to be found for them.

The Base Plan is also anchored by several thermal retirements which include the 4 x 17 megawatt Kelanitissa Gas Turbines, 4 x 18 megawatt Sapugaskanda diesel and the 4 x 15 megawatt Barge power plant among others.

Based on their demand forecast, the CEB predicts that the demand in GHw would be around 13156 for the year 2017 while the generation would be 14720 GHw. The annual growth in demand is around 5.0% while generation will increase by 5.1% next year and 6.1% the year after.

The PUCSL however has observed that the CEB has not considered several factors including Demand side management, demand forecast, absorbing more electricity from readily available energy sources, a transmission system that takes into account cost minimization and most of all an alternative to the Sampur Power Plant which was reportedly shelved. 

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