CEB Lose Billions Due To Drought
By Dinouk Colombage
The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has reported a loss of Rs. 4 billion due to the failing monsoon, according to CEB chairman Dr. Wimaladharma Abeywickrama.
The loss has been accumulated over the past two months due to CEB increasing their reliance on thermal energy.
This brings CEB’s accumulated losses to 45 Billion in the first five months of this year Abeywickrama explained that with the monsoon having not arrived as previously forecast, the CEB has been forced to generate nearly 80% of its electricity from thermal power plants.
“The energy generated through hydroelectricity has diminished to 20%, if the rains continue to stay away this will drop further,” he said.
The chairman explained that the cost to produce electricity through the use of thermal energy varies from Rs. 24 to Rs. 60. The variation in the prices depend on the power plant.
“Certain plants cost more to produce electricity. But they produce larger units. Whenever possible the CEB is focussing on extracting energy from the cheaper plants.”
Abeywickrama went on to say that the CEB does have the capacity to continue producing uninterrupted power, but would be doing so at a great financial strain.
“There are no plans in place to increase the price of electricity or limit the supply. The CEB have continually requested a price hike but the government has refused, until this happens we will continue to work at a loss,” he explained.
While the government has attempted to ease the financial burden on the CEB by exempting them from the fuel taxes, the Chairman said that this was not enough to reduce the current deficit.
He added that the board was continuing to borrow money from the People’s Bank to ensure the continued financing of their operations.
“Currently our capacity is 3,000 Megawatts of electricity while on average 2,000 Megawatts is required. At this rate there is no concern that the thermal plants cannot provide the required energy,” he said.
However he did admit that if one of the thermal power plants were to suffer a breakdown there would be a crisis, “the plants are being worked more than usual. So we are being extra vigilant with our maintenance.”
Previously the Minister of Power and Energy, Champika Ranawaka, has said that regardless of the high costs incurred by the CEB the continous power supply has helped growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
“Our economic growth will outweigh the costs incurred by the electricity board,” he said.
Nalin Fernando, an environmental engineer, said that similar issues had risen in India regarding the rising cost of electricity due to the failure of the monsoon. “In India many cities are reducing electricity consumption by enforcing regulations.
The use of air conditioners have been banned in private homes, while offices can only use them for half of the working day,” he said.
Fernando went on to say that the electricity companies have launched a countrywide campaign to educate the public on the necessity to conserve electricity. “Most people in Sri Lanka do not knowhow to conserve energy; we often see shop lights switched on through the night. This is where the authorities need to step in,” he said.
Abeywickrama said there are no plans to take similar measures in Sri Lanka, but added that the CEB along with the Ministry were conducting island wide awareness campaigns.
Currently the reservoirs are at only 35% capacity. “While these levels are low we are hopeful that the impending monsoon will ease the burden, we have also seen a small bit of rainfall in these areas in the last few days,” Dr. G.G.A Godaliyadda, Director General of Irrigation said.
Meteorological Department which has come under severe criticism for poor weather forecasts predicts that the ongoing drought to last another week.
“While forecasts have shown cloud cover arriving over Sri Lanka the low pressure systems required to create the rainfall has not materialised,” S.H. Kariyawasam, Director General of the Meteorological Department he said.
Kariyawasam went on to say that the department was hopeful that by the end of this week the rains will slowly start arriving in the country.
“We have seen certain areas in India receive rainfall, and are hopeful these low pressure systems will continue moving towards Sri Lanka”, he said. adding that the current rainfall in the country was not falling in the catchment areas.
He denied that their previous forecasts had been incorrect explaining that “we always said the possibility of rainfall is there, we never confirmed that it would rain.”