Sunday, March 13, 2016

CEB clueless about third countrywide power failure

Chairman offers to resign

by Dasun Edirisinghe

Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Anura Wijeyapala yesterday said that he would resign from his post once power was restored as countrywide blackout took place for the third time yesterday during the last six months.

The country experienced two previous blackouts in September 2015 and on February 25.

The power failed around 2.30 pm yesterday and gradual restoration of services resumed after three hours in Colombo and Kandy, but it was limited only for few minutes. At the time of going to press power had been restored in some parts of the country.

"I’m taking the responsibility for the three power failures and will resign after restoring the power," Wijeyapala said.

He told The Island last night that the cause of the countrywide blackout was yet to be determined, but yesterday’s outage was similar to the one on Feb. 25.

Although the power was restored in the Colombo area an outage occurred around 5.45 pm again. Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya insisted that lightning and resultant technical faults had caused the power failure on Feb. 25 but the reports of the committees appointed to investigate the matter have not yet ben submitted.

The CEB appointed two committees to investigate the matter and later Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also appointed a separate committee to probe the power failure.

General Secretary of the Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya Ranjan Jayalal said that not only CEB Chairman but all top management should resign after taking the responsibility for the shameful power failures.

"We heard that tripping of 220 KV transformer in Biyagama Grid Substation caused yesterday’s power failure and lightning was blamed for Feb. 25 power failure," Jayalal said, adding if 220 KV transformer tripping or lightning causes islandwide power failure in this modern age the CEB top management should resign.

He said all three machines of the Norachcholai power plant had been stopped due to yesterday’s power failure and it would take few days for them to cool before starting again.

Jayalal said that successive governments appointed committees to find the causes for power failures when ever a blackout was experienced but nothing had come of those investigations. "We request the Defence Ministry to arrest the CEB top management for countrywide blackouts.

At present, the CEB’s top management was doing only curtailing overtime of labourers who were working day and night to restore power breakdowns and recruiting to the CEB according to lists submitted by the minister, Jayalal alleged.

Commenting on Power and Renewable Energy Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera’s recent promise to complete providing electricity for all households in Sri Lanka by April, Jayalal said it was a joke and their promises were like fire work displays.

An example electricity meters were being fixed in half built roofless houses in Polonnaruwa District under President Maithripala Sirisena’s ‘Polonnaru Udanaya’ Programme, to give the impression that all houses had got electricity, he said.

Power and Energy Minister of the previous government Champika Ranawaka had also boasted that he was an electrical engineer and he knew how to pay salaries to engineers and others, but he, too, was responsible for the current crisis in the power sector, Jayalal added.

Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ranjith Siyambalapitiya apologised to the public for the inconvenience caused by yesterday’s power outage. He regretted that a countrywide power failure occurred even before the report of the previous blackout on Feb 25 was released "We will study this matter further and inform the public what went wrong," he said.

Meanwhile, Ambatale and Kandana water purification plants also stopped pumping water due to yesterday’s power failure.

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