Huge amounts of water allowed to run off from reservoirs without generating electricity

By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) had lost nearly eight billion rupees savings due to the lackadaisical attitude of the Dispatch Department, energy experts said yesterday.

The Rantembe, Victoria, Kotmale and Randenigala reservoirs are overflowing. Nearly 350 GWh were lost from Victoria Randenigala and Rantembe as per estimates in November 2021, independent energy expert, Energy Analyst Dr. Vidhura Ralapanawe pointed out. He the figure was much higher when other reservoir overflows were also added, and the CEB dispatch teams had a lot to answer for.

A senior official of the CEB said that they were faced with a number of technical issues in most plants, especially due to the inclement weather. However, he ruled out sabotage for low voltages experienced in some parts of the country.

With downpours, the reservoirs are now spilling over. This could be considered as a loss of revenue to the CEB as water had a value and was lost when spilled without generating power, a retired senior engineer said.

He said that if the CEB was not prepared to go for some sort of demand management which is the cheapest option to meet the ever expanding loads, very costly generation through high cost thermal generation had to be undertaken increasing the losses the utility annually suffered.

“A change in the attitude of the CEB organisation is urgently required to minimise costs to reduce the annual losses. Revision of the tariffs is essential and the CEB must promote lower cost wind and solar power generation, the retired veteran pointed out.

The official stressed the need to implement the government policy of 70% renewables by 2030 urgently. “Costly generation from imported fuel must be reduced as much as possible. To have more variable wind and solar generation, they must plan for storage in the system. This could be both grid storage and behind the meter storage.” The senior official also urged the government to encourage the use of home storage by removing import duty on batteries and encourage local manufacture of the batteries and even solar modules. These must be undertaken urgently so that all costly imported fuel generation could be minimised early, he added.

“The CEB also has a problem with the release of water which is decided weekly by the Mahaweli authority and the Irrigation Department according to their requirements.

“These requirements must also be met by the CEB as most of the Mahaweli Dams have priority for water release for irrigation than for power generation. Providing a highly reliable supply costs extra money. Can we afford this now? Sri Lanka is already short of dollars, and we cannot expect to provide a 100% reliable supply.

“We must be able to identify non-essential loads and must be able to interrupt the supply. The proper tariff will also help in saving energy. It must encourage reducing waste.”

The veteran also insisted that the plan to install rooftop solar free on the dwellings of Samurdhi recipients should be undertaken immediately. A large sum of money given for solar projects by the Indian government had so far not been used. Putting rooftop solar on all government buildings and schools should be done immediately, he said.

The CEB could be faced with the problem of lack of substation capacity and higher voltage in the Long LT lines, but there are many technical solutions to these problems. Active involvement of the universities to find low costs solutions must be pursued and in a well-planned manner, these must be implemented urgently, he stressed.

Much research done in the universities is not put into practice by the utility due to poor attitudes. What is required is effective management at the CEB. It was unfortunate the promotion by seniority only resulted in getting General Managers of the CEB who remain in office for a short period. “So, the tendency is just to manage the business of the utility till one retires without taking on a challenging task which could result in losing the job,” the senior engineer added.

He said he believed that promotion by performance was a difficult exercise, which may be influenced by politics. “A properly balanced system needs to be developed to have good performers to be promoted quickly and at the same time must provide the staff in different positions proper training so that they can perform well in doing their task. It will take time and must constantly work towards this effectively, which will need effective management at the CEB with no political intervention.”

Thank you

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