Trade union action caused 125Mwh, Rs 320 mn loss: Sri Lanka utility regulator
ECONOMYNEXT – Island-wide unscheduled power cuts due to trade union action caused an estimated 125 megwatt-hour loss of hydroelectricity and a consequent additional cost 320 million rupees, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) said in a report.
A strike by the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) on June 09 caused unscheduled power cuts in many parts of the island. The strike was to oppose proposed amendments to the Sri Lanka Electricity Act, which would end competitive bidding for electricity from the private sector.
The union stated that the main purpose of the amendments would pave the way for the controversial 500MW wind power project by India’s Adani Group.
Amendments to the Act would lead to corruption and high tariffs, the CEBEU had claimed.
However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had made electricity an essential service the previous night, making trade union action illegal under the Essential Services Act and the PUCSL Act.
The PUCSL report said that due to the CEB’s failure to release water through the Randenigala and Rantambe power plants, an estimated 125Mwh of hydroelectricity was lost.
The report stated that the private Sojitz and Westcoast powerplants had started dispatching electricity presumably due to the lack of hydropower generation. The CEB had made no move to dispatch from “their own more economical oil plants (Sapugaskanda),” the report stated.
This had resulted in an additional cost of 320 million rupees.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara tweeted on Monday July 04 that he had instructed officials to internally investigate the incident and assist the Criminal Investigation Department probe, a day after the incident took place.
The Minister had also instructed for the temporary removal of persons responsible for the incident, and “carry out an impartial inquiry and take appropriate legal steps.”
2) On the 10th of June, I had instructed CEB Chairman &#38; GM to internally investigate the incidents, assist the CID in their investigations &#38; to temporally remove the alleged persons responsible from the positions to carry out an impartial inquiry and take appropriate legal steps.
— Kanchana Wijesekera (@kanchana_wij) July 4, 2022
The PUCSL has also served an enforcement order over the strike.
Critics say that such probes lack transparency and do not lead to meaningful change, and are calling for updates to the probe to be made accessible to the public.
PUCSL Chairman Janaka Rathnayake recently said Sri Lanka would have to diversify its energy mix and bring in renewables soon, or the ongoing power cuts could last up to five years.
The country’s dependency on fossil fuels for power generation means that power cut duration could extend in the near future, with the island’s lack of forex and inflation due to money printing making it difficult to procure fuel.
Sri Lanka is also unable to open up letters of credit (LCs), and according to Wijesekara countries that previously gave extended credit periods are now asking for advance payment.
Already Sri Lankans are being impacted by prolonged power cuts, both scheduled and unscheduled. The PUCSL has requested the public to report any unscheduled cuts, but consumers say that complaints make no difference.
The PUCSL had requested the CEB to conduct an inquiry on its failure to operate power plants, unscheduled power cuts, and the operation of the private power plants on June 09.
The report is to be submitted on or before July 18. (Colombo/Jul04/2022)