China to rescue Sri Lanka’s power plants

29 March 2016, Week 12, Issue 350

Sri Lanka will ask China for help in operating its biggest power plant, the South Asian country’s deputy minister of power and energy said on March 23.

The Sri Lankan government will soon hold talks with Beijing in a bid to gain technical assistance and financial support to run the coal-fired, 900-MW Norochcholai thermal power plant (TPP), Ajith Perara told Xinhua.

The move comes at a critical time for Sri Lanka’s power industry, which is under the spotlight following a string of blackouts. The country has suffered three nationwide power failures since September.

The latest, on March 13, turned the lights off throughout Sri Lanka for more than seven hours, making it the longest outage for 20 years. It was triggered by an explosion at an electricity transformer on the outskirts of the capital Colombo.

Just days later, another substation in the suburb of Kotugoda also exploded, causing a power outage across parts of Sri Lanka.

Experts from Japan and Germany are now investigating what caused the explosions.

“We are awaiting the outcome of these investigations by the international and local experts and once we receive that, the government will set a specific agenda on what to do in the future to avoid such power failures,” Perera said.

The government initially suspected sabotage, and positioned army personnel at power installations across the country.

However, Sri Lankan Power Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament last week that the main culprit was the lack of regular maintenance at power installations.

A special committee will be set up to maintain and monitor Sri Lanka’s power supply, while the development of small-scale power plants will be encouraged, Siyambalapitiya said.

The country will also introduce a process to fast-track the connection to the grid of privately owned renewable power plants with a capacity of less than 2 MW, he added.

“A simplified process to approve small renewable power investors and a tariff scheme will be introduced,” Siyambalapitiya said.

Analysts expect that such plants will be granted an even higher tariff than the already generous tariffs applied to plants with a capacity of less than 10 MW.

Edited by

Richard Lockhart

Editor

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