The unannounced power cuts at different times of the day with a varying duration has plunged Sri Lanka and its people into a red-hot furnace. But the consumers would have definitely heaved a huge sigh of relief at the announcement by Power and Energy Minister Ravi Karunanayake that as of today there would be no more power cuts. But nevertheless the sting in the tail is his warning that there is no room for complacency because the power crisis is still not over.
Be that as it may, several consumers had complained that it was unfair and unjust for Colombo and areas where VIPs are living to be excluded from the power-cut loop but however, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has rejected these allegations saying only hospitals and the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NSWDB) has been spared from power cuts.
The CEB said the Deputy General Manager (DGM) (Colombo City) had the authority to adjust power cuts depending on the amount of electricity being added to the grid by private generator-users.
CEB General Manager S.D.W. Gurawardena is reported to have said that a number of consumers in the Colombo City had generators and as such the DGM had been directed to reduce his load from our network by 50 mw resulting in there being a power cut of only 20 MW.
But whatever these formulas mean they are not going to appease the suffering of public other than to compound the already confused situation. What is most irksome are the unannounced power cuts – at different times on different days and of differing duration -- for some its three hours a day while for some others it is as much as four hours – making it impossible to plan any of the household chores beforehand.
Mr Gunawardena rejected these allegations as well and said power cuts depended on the demand for power at a particular time of the day, whatever that might mean to the consumers.
“The power cuts are organised by “feeders”. The function of the feeder pillar is to take in a supply of electrical energy from a transformer and distribute it via fuse-ways, to a number of outgoing circuits, providing each with a means of protection and control. Just because we have 10 to 20 feeders for a particular time slot, there is no need to shed all the feeders at the same time,” he said.
Mr. Gunawardena said this was the reason why some power cuts have been of varying duration and why some areas don’t have interruptions even when they are scheduled and others have cuts without prior notice. “Demand also varies according to the day of the week. Consumption on Wednesdays, for instance, is the highest. It is low on Sundays, when there are no scheduled power cuts,” he said.
All this rhetoric and gobbledygook provides little comfort to the consumers, who are not the cause of this crisis. The various governments, past and present, have to take the responsibility for this unprecedented crisis situation and for allowing it to get out of hand. All what we hear the minister saying is that the successive governments should have set up more new power plants during their tenure and not doing so had landed the country and the people in this plight.
Even where hydro-power generation is concerned, the government has neglected its duty of desilting and removing the sediments accumulated in the reservoirs over the years so that by increasing the water-holding capacity, our reservoirs would be able to store more water when the rains come. Our political leaders and the bureaucrats should not be caught on the wrong foot, which has happened more often than not with complacency setting with the rains when it would be business as usual.
Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has filed legal action against the CEB over the unannounced power cuts while the media reported the other day that the President had blamed the power crisis on a squabble between two officials, one from the CEB and the other from the PUCSL. The President is even reported to have threatened to stay away from Cabinet meetings if these differences are not sorted out.
Whatever the politicians and the bureaucrats may say or not say or whomever they may blame for plunging the country into darkness, let us as responsible citizens do our bit to help Sri Lanka turn the corner.