17 Jan 2002 – Power projects producing 500 MW of additional electricity will be completed this year as part of Sri Lanka’s struggle to tackle its power crisis, Karu Jayasuriya, minister for power and energy, said today.

The minister told reporters that during the first half of the year three private power projects would add approximately 184 MW to the national grid. He hoped that by the end of the year, construction would be completed on five out of a total of 54 mini hydro power plants that have been planned. Those projects are set to add between 200 MW and 250 MW of power to the main grid.

Sri Lanka faces a water shortage affecting hydropower output and earlier in the week the government increased the length of daily power cuts from one to up to two-and-a-half hours.

The Ceylon Electricity Board currently has an installed capacity of 1636 MW and the government is seeking to source around 100 MW from private companies to meet the short term needs.

Jayasuriya said that Sri Lanka would be looking to renewable energy sources to increase diversification of supply. Around 71 per cent of Sri Lanka’s is hydroelectric and the rest thermal (i.e., oil). This heavy dependence on hydropower has caused problems in the past, such as in 1996, when a severe drought caused a major power shortfall.

Despite wet weather in early 2000, reservoir levels remain low, and Sri Lanka has been forced to utilize temporary (and costly) thermal capacity to avoid shortfalls.

The minister said the government was committed toward construction of a 300 MW coal-fired plant on the country’s west coast, just north of Colombo. The plant has faced opposition on environmental grounds but Jayasuriya said, “the government has approval to go ahead with the project and construction could start this year.”

Sri Lanka has designated the decade up to 2009 as a period for power development. At the end of the decade it hopes to have extended electrification to every household on the island.