Appoint Commission to Investigate Norochcholai

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, as a matter of priority, should appoint a Presidential Commission to investigate whether there was any ‘misuse and abuse’ of power relating to the construction of the Chinese funded 300X3, 900 MW Norochcholai Coal Fired Power Plant (NCFPP) that has resulted in consumer electricity costs increasing by over one billion rupees in a mere seven days and also enhancing the ongoing record daily power cuts

The ‘further’ breakdown of the 900 MW NCFPP since last Monday (15), saw the taxpayers’ electricity bills being inflated by Rs 1.21 billion in the seven consecutive days to Sunday (21) alone due to the consumption of the more expensive diesel, consequently, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) data of yesterday 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 last Tuesday (16), due to the ‘further’ breakdown of NCFPP since 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 last Tuesday as Sri Lanka has insufficient US dollars to either import the required diesel or to pay independent diesel power producers (IDPPs) 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 and now, another of its 300 MW plant is malfunctional since last Monday, resulting in NCPP being able to provide only 300 MW of power on a daily basis since that day (last Monday).

Subsequently, coal provided not 45 per cent, but only 18.66 per cent (6.5 giga Watt hours (gWh)) of the country’s total electricity supply of 34.83 gWh of electricity consumed on Sunday, according to the CEB. On the previous day Saturday, it was 16.80 per cent, on Friday (15.96 per cent), Thursday (15.80 per cent), Wednesday (15.75 per cent), last Tuesday (16.05 per cent) and last Monday, 16.17 per cent, respectively. Meanwhile, last Sunday (14 August), with 600 mW (2X300 mW) out of a total 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.

In related developments, on Sunday (21), the cheap and clean renewable energy (RE) met 68.71 per cent (23.93 gWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity demand, Saturday (64.54 per cent), Friday (58.45 per cent), Thursday (57.88 per cent), Wednesday (57.72 per cent), last Tuesday (57.60 per cent)and last Monday (60.32 per cent), respectively.

 Meanwhile, the imported and pollutive diesel’s contribution to electricity generation was 12.63 per cent on Sunday and the balance, vis-à-vis fossil fuels (FFs) was met by the imported and pollutive coal (16.91 per cent), respectively.  On Saturday, ‘diesel’s contribution was 18.66 per cent (7.21 gWh), Friday 25.59 per cent (10.44 gWh), Thursday 26.33 per cent (10.83 gWh), Wednesday, 26.54 per cent (10.97 gWh), last Tuesday 26.35 per cent (10.67 gWh) and last Monday 23.51 per cent (9.68 gWh), respectively.

But if NCFPP was fully functional, then there would have been no necessity to generate the expensive ‘diesel electricity’ for the country during the seven-day period under review, thereby saving the taxpayer a sum of Rs 1.21 billion in the review period.

NCFPP was built at a cost of USD 1.35 billion by the Chinese during the Mahinda Rajapaksa era, in a mix of commercial and concessional terms, sans tender call.

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.