Norochcholai breakdown further ups electricity bills

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The ‘further’ breakdown of the 900 MW (3X300 MW) Norochcholai Coal Fired Power Plant (NCFPP) since last Monday (15), saw electricity bills being inflated by Rs 1.21 billion in the seven consecutive days to Sunday (21) alone, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) data showed. All costs are based on the Central Bank’s electricity estimates as at last year.

This additional cost to the taxpayers is despite increased power cuts effective from last Tuesday (16) due to the further breakdown of NCFPP on the previous day, ie. 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 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, i.e. for 57 days to Sunday 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 18.66 per cent (6.5Giga Watt hours (GWh) of the country’s total electricity supply of 34.83 GWh of electricity on Sunday, on the previous day Saturday,  it was 16.80 per cent (6.49 GWh), on Friday, a mere 15.96 per cent (6.51GWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity consumption, 15.80 per cent (6.5 GWh) on Thursday, 15.75 per cent (6.51 GWh) on Wednesday (41.34 GWh),  last Tuesday 16.05 per cent (6.5 GWh) and last Monday, 16.17 per cent (6.66 GWh), respectively.

Meanwhile, last Sunday (14), 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 Sunday, the cheap and clean renewable energy (RE) met 68.71 per cent (23.93GWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity demand, while the imported and pollutive fossil fuels (FFs) led by coal and followed by diesel met the balance 31.29 per cent (10.9GWh).  Diesel’s contribution alone was 12.63 per cent or 4.4GWh of electricity generated on Sunday. 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 seven day period, 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 on commercial terms sans tender call.

In like developments, on the previous day Saturday, RE met 64.54 per cent (24.93 GWh) of Sri Lanka’s total electricity demand, while FFs, this time 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. 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 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.

Meanwhile, in the 22 consecutive days to Sunday, 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