The ‘further’ breakdown of the 900 mW (3X300 mW) Norochcholai Coal Fired Power Plant (NCFPP) since last Monday (15 August), saw the taxpayers’ electricity bills being inflated by Rs 1.13 billion in the six consecutive days to Saturday (20 August) alone, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) data from yesterday (Sunday, 21 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 taxpayers is despite increased power cuts effective from Tuesday (16 August) due to the further breakdown of NCFPP on the previous day, that is, last Monday. Subsequently, CEB increased its record daily power cuts by 200 per cent or by three-fold, from one hour to three hours, effective from Tuesday, as Sri Lanka has no US dollars to either 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, that is, for 56 days to Saturday and now, another of its 300 MW plants malfunctional since last Monday, resulting in NCPP being able to provide only 300 MW of power on a daily basis since last Monday.

Consequently, coal provided not 45 per cent, but only 16.80 per cent (6.49 gigawatt hours (GWh) of the country’s total electricity supply of 38.63 GWh of electricity on Saturday, on the previous day Friday, a mere 15.96 per cent (6.51 GWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity consumption of 40.79 GWh,15.80 per cent (6.5 GWh)of the country’s total electricity consumption of 41.13 GWh of Thursday,15.75 per cent (6.51 GWh)of the island’s total electricity consumption on the previous day Wednesday (41.34 GWh), Tuesday 16.05 per cent (6.5 GWh) and last Monday, 16.17 per cent (6.66 GWh),respectively.Sri Lanka consumed a total of 40.5 GWh of electricity on Tuesday, while on last 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 Saturday, the cheap and clean renewable energy (RE) met 64.54 per cent (24.93 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 35.46 per cent (13.7 GWh).Diesel’s contribution alone was 18.66 per cent or 7.21 GWh of electricity generated on Saturday.But if NCFPP was fully functional, then there would have been no necessity to generate the expensive ‘diesel electricity’ for the country during the reference six-day period, thereby saving the taxpayer a sum of Rs 1.13 billion in the review period.

NCFPP was built at a cost of US$ 1.35 billion by the Chinese during the Mahinda Rajapaksa era on commercial terms sans tender call.

In like developments, on the previous day Friday, RE met 58.45 per cent (23.84 GWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity consumption, while FFs met the island’s balance electricity consumption of 41.55 per cent (16.95 GWh), on Thursday, RE met 57.88 per cent (23.80 GWh)of Sri Lanka’s total electricity consumption, while FFs met the island’s balance electricity consumption of 42.13 per cent (17.33 GWh).On Wednesday, RE met a total of 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 25.59 per cent or 10.44 GWh of electricity generated on Friday, on the previous day Thursday Diesel’s contribution alone was 26.33 per cent or 10.83 GWh of electricity generated and on the previous day Wednesday, diesel’s contribution alone was 26.54 per cent or 10.97 GWh of electricity generated.

Meanwhile, in the 21 consecutive days to Saturday, 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 it cost the CEB Rs 10.87 to generate one kilowatt 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