Lanka running out of dollar, power

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The dollar-strapped Sri Lanka is finding hard to release foreign currency to buy fuel for the transportation and electricity generation…writes Susitha Fernando

Amidst the worst-ever power crisis connected to Sri Lanka’s ailing economy and Energy Ministry threatening to stop fuel supply for electricity generation from Tuesday, a Minister said fuel would be obtained from the Indian Oil Company (IOC) to generate electricity.

Power Minster Gamini Lokuge told the media that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) management has been advised to start a discussion with the IOC to purchase furnace oil to generate power.

“I have advised the CEB officials to have a discussion on Tuesday with regard to supplying fuel for power generation,” the Minister said.

However Opposition parties complained that getting fuel from IOC is an underhand deal to get commission.

Former MP of the Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Wasantha Samarasinghe said that the CEB could pay to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and purchase fuel from it.

The dollar-strapped Sri Lanka is finding hard to release foreign currency to buy fuel for the transportation and electricity generation.

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The country needs around $400 million to supply oil per month in addition to nearly $30 to buy fuel for power generation.

Energy Minister Uday Gammanpila argued that if the remaining fuel be given to generate electricity there would be a serious issue with regard to transportation.

Gammanpila also told media that he finds it difficult to import fuel as there are no dollars and suggested that the available fuel needs to be retained for more essential transportation by curtailing electricity.

“Transpiration needs to be given the priority over the electricity sector as without transportation the country will come to a standstill. By curtailing electricity we can still run the country.

“We are forced to decide not to provide fuel for the CEB to generate electricity. We don’t have excess stocks of fuel nor dollars to import fuel. If the CEB provides dollars we could provide fuel for power generation,” he added.

According to the Minister, 3,000 metric tonnes of diesel provided for power generation would be over on Tuesday and power generation will come to a standstill leading to daily power cuts.

For daily power generation, Sri Lanka needs 1,500 metric tonnes each of diesel and Naphtha.

Gammanpila further said that two ships with 76,000 metric tonnes of diesel are docked at the Colombo harbour and if dollars are provided fuel could be obtained from them.

Meanwhile the CEB’s Engineers Union warned that the thermal power generation stations will be stopped by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Dhammika Wimalaratne, Secretary of the Union, said that subsequently the national grid will lose around 300 megawatts of power.

Meanwhile, the country’s power crisis has worsened with the malfunctioning of one of the three power generating units at the China-built coal power plant in Norrochcholai.

Sawmya Kumarawadu, President CEB Trade Union Engineers, said that only Chinese engineers can repair it as Beijing has blocked access to certain areas of the system.

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