Norochcholai breakdown costs taxpayer additional Rs 798M

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The ‘further’ breakdown of the 900 mW (3X300 mW) Norochcholai Coal Fired Power Plant (NCFPP) on Monday (15 August) will have had cost the taxpayer an additional Rs 798 million in the four consecutive days to Thursday (18 August), Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) data of Friday (19 August) showed. All costs are based on Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s (CBSL’s) electricity estimates as at last year (2021)

This additional cost to the taxpayer is despite increased power cuts effective from Tuesday (16 August) due to the further breakdown of NCFPP on the previous day Monday. Consequently, CEB increased its record daily power cuts by 200 per cent or three fold, from one hour to three hours, effective from Tuesday as Sri Lanka has no US dollars to import the required diesel or to pay independent diesel power producers (IDPPs)/private sector) to ensure uninterrupted power.

If, however, the NCFPP was fully functional, it has the capacity to meet 45 per cent of Sri Lanka’s electricity demand. But more often than not, NCPP is malfunctional, with a 300 mW plant of it being malfunctional at least since 27 June, ie for 54 days to yesterday and now, another of its 300 mW plants malfunctional since Monday, resulting in NCPP being able to provide only 300 mW of power, currently.

Consequently, coal provided only 15.80 per cent (6.5 giga Watt hours (GWh)) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity consumption of 41.13 GWh of Thursday, 15.75 per cent (6.51 GWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity consumption on the previous day Wednesday (41.34 GWh), Tuesday 16.05 per cent (6.5 GWh) and Monday, 16.17 per cent (6.66 GWh), respectively. Sri Lanka consumed a total of 40.5 GWh of electricity on Tuesday, while on Monday it was 41.18 GWh.

Meanwhile, last Sunday (14 August), with 600 mW (2X300 mW) out of 900 mW of NCFPP functional, NCFPP met 33.97 per cent (12.32 GWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity demand on that day. Last Sunday Sri Lanka consumed a total of 36.27 GWh of electricity.

In related developments, on Thursday, the cheap and clean renewable energy (RE) met 57.88 per cent (23.80 GWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity demand, while the imported and pollutive fossil fuels (FFs) led by diesel and followed by coal met the balance 42.13 per cent (17.33 GWh).  Diesel’s contribution alone was 26.33 per cent or 10.83 GWh of electricity generated on Thursday. But if NCFPP was fully functional; then there would have been no necessity to generate the expensive “diesel electricity” for the country.

In like developments, on the previous day Wednesday, RE met a total 57.72 per cent (23.86 GWh) of Sri Lanka’s full electricity demand, while FFs met the balance 42.28 per cent (17.48 GWh) of the country’s electricity needs. Diesel’s contribution alone was 26.54 per cent or 10.97 GWh of electricity generated on Wednesday.

 In the 19 consecutive days to Thursday, over 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s electricity demand was met by RE led by “CEB Hydro,” the cheapest source of electricity to the CEB, according to CBSL.

All the above costs  are based on CBSL’s 2021 cost estimates, where CBSL said that it cost the CEB Rs 10.87 to generate one kilo Watt hour (kWh) or one unit of coal electricity last year, Rs 30.35 for private sector or independent power producers’ (IPP’) diesel and Rs 29.01 of CEB’s own “diesel electricity.”Coal was the second cheapest source of electricity generation, “IPP diesel” the most expensive and “CEB diesel” the second most expensive. The cheapest source of electricity generation to the CEB last year was “CEB Hydro” at Rs 1.67 a unit, according to CBSL.

By Paneetha Ameresekere