Sri Lanka president says no more power cuts after March 5

Assurance follows days of outages caused by a lack of funds to buy enough fuel to fire power plants.

Sri Lanka power crisis
Amila Uduwerell uses a car battery to charge his laptops as he works during a seven-hour power outage in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Sri Lanka will suffer no more power cuts after March 5, the president’s office has said in a statement, following days of outages caused by a lack of funds to buy enough fuel to fire power plants.

The statement issued on Wednesday did not spell out how the South Asian island nation would secure fuel supplies to keep the power on from Saturday.

Shortages have also led to long lines at petrol stations over the past month.

“There will be no power cuts from March 5. The distribution of fuel to all fuel stations across the country will be normalised from tomorrow,” the statement by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office said.

Sri Lanka currently needs about $500m a month to source diesel and gasoline, but resorted to power cuts last week as it scrambled to secure $31m for a 3,700-million-tonne fuel shipment.

A spokesperson for the federal power ministry did not immediately respond to emails and calls on how the government planned to ensure supplies to fuel power plants.

Sri Lanka’s central bank has stopped releasing funds to pay for fuel shipments, two senior energy ministry sources said.

Nearly a third of Sri Lanka’s electricity is generated by oil-fired power plants and a similar amount comes from coal and hydropower, according to the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

Namal Hewage, general manager of state-run Lanka Coal Co Pvt Ltd, said the country had sufficient coal to ensure a continuous supply of electricity from the Ceylon Electricity Board-run coal-fired power plant.

Lanka Coal had issued a spot tender for 1.8 million tonnes in September, after which it received 30 shipments from South Africa and eight shipments from Russia, Hewage said.

The country has procured another 480,000 tonnes of South African-origin coal that are expected to arrive at the country’s ports over the coming days.

“This could be sufficient to last until September. The central bank has helped us with the letter of credit to pay for the coal supplies,” Hewage said.

Source: Reuters