Everybody blames the Norocholai plant

electricity-hikeSri Lanka has imposed daily power cuts nationwide following breakdown at a China-built power plant in Norocholai, a coastal town 140 km north of Colombo.

The coal power plant, which came up at an investment of $1.4 billion, is Sri Lanka’s largest and has a capacity of 900 MW. The Power Ministry resorted to load-shedding following a technical problem, according to Sulakshana Jayawardena, Director (Development), Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy. “Everybody blames the plant, but it is actually a transmission failure,” he told The Hindu on Tuesday, a day after the one-and-a-half-hour power cut-plan came into effect.

Severe drought

The problem, he said, was compounded by a severe drought that has hit the island this year, impacting the country’s hydro-power generation sources.

Following the breakdown, the Power Ministry sought the help of Sri Lanka’s Mahaweli Development & Environment Ministry, which oversees irrigation, for the use of water from reservoirs to generate additional power. “The recent showers also helped a little,” Mr. Jayawardena said.

More than 20 breakdowns

Over 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s energy needs are met by thermal sources, and hydro power accounts for about 15 per cent, except during the monsoon when it is higher, the Power Ministry official said.

The Norocholai plant, built to meet the country’s growing energy demands, has suffered more than 20 breakdowns since it was commissioned in March 2011, news agency Reuters reported.

Sri Lanka has a total installed power generation capacity of 4,050 MW, including 900 MW of coal power, 1,335 MW of oil burning thermal power and 1,375 MW of hydro power. Nearly 450 MW is generated through renewable energy sources.

Trincomalee venture

With the aim of increasing its capacity to 6,400 MW in a decade, Sri Lanka has been looking to tap new sources. In 2006 India’s National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC), along with the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), signed an agreement for a joint venture to build a coal power plant in Trincomalee, a strategic spot on Sri Lanka’s north-eastern coast. However in September this year, Sri Lanka dropped the plan citing environmental concerns.

Also in September, Sri Lanka ratified the Paris agreement and committed to focus on renewable sources of energy. President Maithripala Sirisena launched a community-based power generation project called the ‘’oorya Bala Sangramaya’ (Battle for Solar Energy). (The Hindu)

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