Monday, April 16, 2007

Sri Lanka electricity power fails nationwide

Sri Lanka lost electricity power Sunday as the entire national electricity grid failed shortly before 3.00 pm local time, officials said.
The Ceylon Electricity Board, the country's state-owned power utility, restored power to most parts of the capital Colombo about two hours later.
Officials have not yet pin-pointed the cause, but lightning strikes to main transmission lines have been blamed for previous failures.
The grid has shown a tendency to fail in recent years with the cash-strapped utility needing treasury handouts to pay its debts.
A national failure was last experienced on November 15, with the country plunging into darkness at the start of the evening peak demand hour at 7.30 p.m.
But today's failure occurred during a low demand hour, and at time when there were no reports of significant electrical storm activity, an official said.
Generators at the utility's Kelanitissa thermal complex which were frequently tripping during the last two months due to problems with fuel supply, were also not involved in Sunday's failure.
The CEB's finances are weak with the utility selling power below cost and reforms to the energy giant have also been delayed due to trade union action led by the Sri Lanka's Marxist-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna party.
A total grid failure can have serious negative effects on an industrial economy. Such events happen very rarely in industrialized countries.
But the power failed over a holiday weekend with the country having celebrated a national New Year festival yesterday.
Power sector analysts have been warning that Sri Lanka is heading for another electricity shortage in early 2008 unless steps were taken to bring in additional private sector power early.
Sri Lanka has been under-investing in infrastructure for years, with most of the tax revenues going to sustain a bloated public service or the war.
In the last two years, the situation has got worse with 42,000 unemployed graduates being hired into the government and more planned this year.
According to the 2007 budget, 49 cents out of every tax rupee collected will go for wages and pensions of the public sector.
Public sector wages and pensions are not taxed in Sri Lanka.

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