13 June, 2024


Restructuring Electricity Supply Systems

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

In most countries, except the biggest, the electricity supply system was, in the past, a single publicly owned monopoly. The best known and most esteemed was the Central Electricity Generating Board of England and Wales (CEGB). In the United States, because of its great size, each state or part thereof was served by a “utility” – a private monopoly that generated, transmitted and distributed power within its franchise area. In France, EdeF was and still remains a state owned monopoly as does France’s famous railway network, SNCF of TGV fame. Japan, Canada, much of Europe, India and China include several monopoly utilities that are public or privately owned. The CEGB was the benchmark for many private and public (provincial or central) utilities.

Then came that Thatcher woman! Together with Ronald Regan she embodied the nadir of neoliberalism; her philosophy: “If it moved, breathed or waddled, privatise it!” Denationalisation of British Rail is legendary – there are several books detailing this ignominious fiasco. (Corbyn has pledged to take back the railways). The counter-lesson that we need to learn from this ruinous neoliberal agenda known as the Washington Accord is that public goods and natural monopolies (defence, justice, electricity grid, spectrum and telecoms-backbone, roads, and water – domestic and schemes like Mahaweli irrigation – must remain under public control. Yes, competition indeed trims prices and improves sector efficiency, but the industry and technology must be well understood by reformers so that they can make socially responsible decisions about competition. This is no game to be entrusted to locals or foreigners with loaded ideological agendas.

The Thatcher drive to break up and privatise the CEGB derived from the “dash for gas”. Huge quantities of cheap gas were discovered in the North Sea. Instead of letting the nationalised utility benefit from it, the Thatcher government privatised the power stations, encouraged private capital to build gas-fired plant, drove coal back underground (recall the miners’ strike) and forced distribution utilities to buy from private generators. The transmission system was retained as a monopoly National Grid Company (NGC). Regional distribution systems were hived off as twelve private distribution companies (Discos) who bought from private generation companies in a power-market and sold to domestic and small industrial customers. Industries were encouraged to buy directly from generators bypassing their local Disco commercially. Of course power still had to pass through the transmission and distribution networks and use-of-system charges were levied.

Initially England & Wales had a ‘Single-Buyer’; the NGC was the only buyer but later this was displaced by a more ‘Power-Exchange’ like arrangement. ‘Single-Buyer’ and ‘Power-Exchange’ are described below. NGC is an Independent System Operator – ISO is also briefly described below.

The experience of privatised power in the UK is not a success. UK small consumer electricity tariffs are the highest in the EU (except Malta) and 57% higher than the EU median in 2015 according to UK government data. (French electricity is among the cheapest in the EU thanks to nuclear energy; telecoms prices plummeted in Lanka and the world thanks to revolutionary technologies). In the UK, at the second stage, even retail customers were encouraged to contract and buy electricity directly from a bunch of about 40 competing middlemen-companies; an absurdity. Nothing has been achieved by this muddle except inane complexity and psychological stress. Imagine the panic of a little old lady facing this mayhem. No other country that did open a power market went this far into bedlam.

The supreme example of power market failure is California. Utilities that had functioned as conventional monopolies for decades had generation taken away from them. Investors bought-out the power stations and a class of private generators emerged who were encouraged to build new plant as demand grew. The old utilities were confined to the distribution end of the business serving customers with electricity they bought on the California Power-Exchange. The California power market ended in an all-mighty crash bankrupting Enron Corporation in a $1.52 billion settlement. This story of capitalism at its wits end is too long to recount here and even gave rise to charming epithets like “megawatt laundering”. For a wrap-up summary of the multi-billion dollar 2000-2001 California power market debacle let me quote Wikipedia: “California had a shortage of electricity supply caused by market manipulations, illegal shutdowns of pipelines by the Texas energy consortium Enron, and capped retail electricity prices. The state suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts, one of the state’s largest energy companies collapsed”.

The post-script is that it derailed power market trends worldwide. Privatisation and power market schemes already in progress were redesigned or scaled back. The lesson is that electricity is not a commodity amenable to simple market practices.  David Freeman, Chair of the California Power Authority which oversaw the restructuring after the crash, said: “There is one fundamental lesson we must learn from this experience: electricity is different from everything else. It cannot be stored, it cannot be seen, and we cannot do without it, which makes opportunities to take advantage of a deregulated market endless. It is a public good that must be protected from private abuse. If Murphy’s Law were written for a market approach to electricity, it would say ‘any system that can be gamed, will be gamed, and at the worst possible time.’ A market approach to electricity is inherently gameable. Never again can we allow private interests to create shortages and be in control”.Power-Exchange- One time-step shown

Power-Exchange: One time-step shown. Generator’s offers are stacked from cheapest to dearest, and customer’s bids from most generous to most frugal. (Self-schedules lie outside the market and resolve technical and business concerns).

How power-markets work

There are two power-market models; Single-Buyer and Power-Exchange.


Imagine a New-CEB which owns the transmission grid and system control facilities, but owns no generators. However it is the sole buyer of electricity from private generators. Imagine the country divided into distribution utilities which buy power from New-CEB and retail to consumers. Imagine many private generators competing to sell to this single-buyer New-CEB. Contracts could be long-term (annual), monthly, daily or spot (real time, say every 15 minutes). The purchase schedules could be short term (say half-hourly) or longer. Prices will be on an agreed basis. What New-CEB charges distributors could be averaged out (with an added charge for transmission and overheads) or could fluctuate depending on what New-CEB itself pays daily or spot. What distributors charge end-users will usually be averaged (with a charge for distribution costs and overheads) and could be in slabs or same-for-all. Generator-to-New-CEB, and New-CEB-to-distribution utility agreements, and end consumer tariffs can be designed case by case as desired subject to approval by a Regulator.

A well-known model is the day-ahead archetype. This is where New-CEB forecasts next day’s load in say 48 half-hourly steps and receives quotations from private generators for this half-hourly schedule. It accepts the lowest quotes to fulfil forecast demands for each time-step. Generators who price low may get purchase orders for the whole day while those who price high may win orders only at peak demand time. Errors in forecasting or unexpected events will create a mismatch between purchase orders and real-time demand. Not to worry; there will be a spot-market (also called real-time market) where generators sell power (at a premium) when called upon to do so at short notice.


This is an electronic market managed by an entity like a stock-exchange authority. Generators submit half-hourly quantity and price offers, buyers (distributors and industries) submit how much they want to buy at each time step and what they are prepared to pay. For each time-step, the lowest generator offers and highest buyer offers are matched until the ‘market is cleared’. This is shown on the diagram which illustrates a post California-crash version. Market clearance means that no buyer is prepared to pay a higher price and no seller is prepared to sell at a lower price after the last transaction has been ‘cleared’. Now, after the ‘market clearing price’ is ascertained, every buyer pays this price (it is lower than his bid) and every seller pockets this charge (it is higher than his quote) and as Adam Smith would declare with glee, everybody should be happy – except sellers shut out because they quoted too high and disappointed buyers who bid too low; both belong to the extreme right hand side of the graphs.

Independent System Operator (ISO)

In the Power-Exchange (PE) model, PE is only a clearing house for energy-versus-money; it has nothing to do with the technical operation of the network or with system control functions. These are the domain of an ISO which operates, owns, maintains and plans the future of the transmission grid and system control facilities. The ISO must maintain strict neutrality; if it favours some generator or buyer it can cause havoc at times when transmission bottlenecks or voltage difficulties arise. There have to be technical protocols worked out in advance and adhered to when the unexpected occurs.

This raises the need for an Electricity Regulator to represent the public interest. The Regulator has to make rules for the functioning of the Power-Exchange, approve operational guidelines of the ISO, and in the Single-Buyer (SB) case, approve procedures between SB and generators, between SB and distributors, and approve consumer tariffs. The Regulator keeps an eye on ongoing activities and adjudicates disputes.


The transmission system is a natural monopoly (there can be only one) and it is a public-good. Distribution systems are each a natural monopoly in their regions (there can only be one in each region; LECO for example has a separate well defined area of its own in Kotte) and also public-goods. Hence in electricity supply there is scope for competition ONLY in power generation. This thought underlies the private power generator model that has caught on in Sri Lanka. Everywhere in the world the transmission network, the queen of the power system, must be answerable to society and not to private interests. Mutatis mutandis this applies to distribution networks as well.

Competition in electricity supply via private power generating companies can be useful if the hanky-panky of the past is not repeated – Lanka, California, wherever. Whether to detach distribution into provincial, district, or LECO-like entities is an issue that has pros and cons. To the best of my knowledge no in-depth study has been undertaken to examine what type of restructuring, if any, is desirable in Lanka. Existing structures need to be examined and compared with costs and benefits of feasible alternatives. Until that is done, let not fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and let us not grind pet ideological axes.

The author is one of very few Sri Lankans elected a Fellow of the IEEE; his citation was ‘For Contributions to Electricity Supply System Restructuring’. He has graduated about 20 PhDs and authored about 100 journal and conference papers on this topic.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    When was privatization about serving the nation?
    We are victims of systematic castigation of all state sector for inefficiency, indifference etc.
    The country has since 1988 privatized many successful ventures on one pretext or another and where do we stand now?
    If the electricity industry needs cleaning up, let us clean it up. Privatization is not the cure.
    That is not to deny the private sector a role. But privatization is about big money destroying national ventures for profit.

    Those who hailed New Zealand’s privatization of electricity had second thoughts after its response to the massive power crisis after the earthquake not long ago.
    Such stories abound all over the world.

    But the not-so-good governance regime has other ideas.

    • 5

      The only bit that caught my attention in this article was the lat para

      “The author is one of very few Sri Lankans elected a Fellow of the IEEE; his citation was ‘For Contributions to Electricity Supply System Restructuring’. He has graduated about 20 PhDs and authored about 100 journal and conference papers on this topic.”

      Should we be surprised that our country still suffers from a chronic disbility to supply power to us.

      A good example of what happens when fools (educated or not) advise/are put in charge of, vital infrastructure!

  • 3

    High time this outdated academic stopped theorising – he is a good example of how quickly dogmatic academics go out of style and try and defend their ancient and outdated modes of thinking as evidenced when he feels that renewable energy has no bigger role than 15-20% to play in the future of Sri Lanka, despite far more respected academics from MIT and Oxford holding a completely different view. Isn’t this chap complicit in the failure of the CEB as an entity today due to his lack of action when he served as a director?

    • 3

      As an outsider and third party to this debate I challenge this Manique Alles to put up a list of wind, solar, tidal, biomass and wave energy projects which could be developed within 5 years (a generous amount of time) to input in total just 1 TWh* into the grid. (* See note below).

      I challenge him/her to provide the following for each scheme/project – as a VERY BRIEF outline – with broad empirical data and simple maths.

      a) Locations (not just windy region, dry zone but specific locations) of each scheme – prove that the land, wind and solar insolation exists!
      b) Extent of land in square miles required for each project
      c) Average electrical energy production forecast for each project (+ or minus 25% accuracy is good enough)
      d) Rough idea of capital cost of each project
      e) Rough idea of cost per kWh when discounting the project over say 20 years

      (a), (b) and (c) are the crucial points. He/she needs to show the projects can IN TOTAL provide even a meager 1 TWh in 5 years and show that even if given full, unconditional support, this person’s proposals are better at generating electricity than hot air!

      So I am challenging this worthy to pinpoint specific projects (no bullshitting, no hanky-panky) to generate just 20% of the INCREASE over the next 5 years.That is just 5% of the TOTAL demand in 2020. We hear so much cock and bull from dim-witted amateurs ignorant of even an iota of the empirical ground data and clueless about the most trivial of the relevant maths.

      * Note: At a guess, CEB generation in 2015 was 15 TWh. In five years maybe it will rise to 20 TWh per annum.

      • 1

        Thanks EW. You seem to have hit the nail on the head. Something that I wanted to do but was reluctant to.

        I would like to add a few more things.

        1) The solar and wind sources should have sufficient storage batteries to tide over night period, when the system peak occurs and low wind periods.

        2) Should provide sufficient frequency support for any generation outages.

        3) Should provide sufficient reactive power support for the system.

        4) Should mention the assumed life time of PV panels and replacement costs.

        The assumed capital cost should be after incorporating all of the above costs.

        N.B.: I feel that 20 years is too long for discounted costs. 10 years is more reasonable. But forget about that. Assume 20.

      • 3

        Excellent putdown! I was about to write one myself. None of the solar and wind fans know how a grid works, but they have the gas to challenge someone like Kumar David.
        A lot of people with grid-connected solar installations were surprised when even they didn’t have power after dark during the recent power failures.
        Solar power might work if all of us shelled out a million bucks each on a roof installation. Is that practical?

        • 1

          And that is not the real fun. The real fun is when you have to replace the panels after 10 years max. My estimate, after 6 years for Chinese panels.

          In Denmark, where they have a lot of wind power installed, the excess power is sent to Norway by undersea DC cable and used to power pumped storage hydro systems, which are already there. Then when wind comes down the power from these hydro generators are used to fill in the shortages.

          But we have nothing of the sort.

          Anyway, Europe is hugely interconnected and has no problems with their wide generation mix.

          not so little SL.

          • 3

            Yes, people tend to believe anything the solar panel suppliers tell them,and do not ask the right questions or read the fine print.
            For instance:
            1. If the panels are guaranteed for 25 years, does that mean they will have the same output over the 25 years?
            2. If they won’t what is the decease in output per year?
            3. Will the seller be around in 10 years, let alone 25?
            As you say, night time backup has to come from very expensive batteries ( which have to be replaced periodically) or pumped water.

            • 2

              Agree with you. But then we may be outdated idiots sticking to old ideas.

              But then we may not be too.

              Let the sun shine in all its glory on little Sri Lanka even in the night so that we do not have to depend on storage at all, did some 1 say Perovskite? Sounds a bit like Perestroika. We can even have mirrors in synchronous orbit beaming suns rays 24/7. Now that would be hi tech indeed.

              Or why not go the whole hog? Have whole wind farms orbiting Earth and beaming energy through cloud penetrating microwaves/

              I am sorry that I entered this discussion at all. Looks like everybody (us, CEB) except mechanics and Mott McDonald are idiots.

              • 2

                A little correction:
                ” Have whole wind farms orbiting Earth and beaming energy through cloud penetrating microwaves/”
                There is no wind in space.

                • 2

                  Just realised you are a humourist as well. Disregard the above comment.
                  What about self-frying chickens at the receiving end of the microwave link?

                • 0

                  Ouch! You got me there. I mean solar farms. Sorry for the mistake and thanks for pointing out.

          • 2

            May be linking with South India might improve Sri Lanka’s flexibility. But then the Colombo Doctors will start howling that power lines are going to be conduits for mosquitos from Madras!!

          • 1

            May be connecting with South India might give little SL more diverse options. But then the doctors in Colombo will start howling that power lines are going to be conduits for dangerous mosquitos.

            • 3

              Rajan Philips ,

              The presidents award for Solar Energy in India was won by Dr Chamanlal Gupta he was a scientist Gandhian not an electrical engineer. Stationed at Pondicherry Aurobindo Ashram Center for environmental studies Solar Energy. I met him in 1976 and had rice that he made with a small solar heating device in 5 mins.

              Much of the homes are further down Aurobindo City where we worked and studied for my seniors thesis project in solar energy- 6 weeks.
              he says: “I and my wife Shipra live by the Mother’s Grace and aspire to serve Her as our response to Her Love.

              Solar Energy in Developing Countries: An Overview and Buyers’ Guide for Solar Scientists and Engineers–https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=u73dAgAAQBAJ&dq=Dr.+Chamanlal+Gupta+(Auroville&source=gbs_navlinks_s
              a book worth reading.

      • 2

        You probably don’t know that these studies have already been undertaken by the private sector (Ace/Senok) througg Arup and MottMcDonald prior to them embarking on their wind farms. The studies independently concluded that Sri Lanka could generate as much as 80% of their day load through 37 wind plant locations around the country. That’s not even considering solar. Unfortunately the report was surpressed by the corrupt idiots at the CEB. To the idiot talking about replacing cells, ever heard of Perovskite?

        Best check your facts before bootlicking outdated hacks and coal apologists like Kumar David who’ve contributed nothing of any real value to the field apart from some unrated journal publications. And who really cares what Germany or China are doing? Their power demand is way higher and more developed than Sri Lanka. What is sad is that Sri Lanka is looking to
        Outdated technology for future needs. A bit like upgrading your ten year old car today with a Model T ford, on the basis that it was the first mass produced car.

        • 3

          I didn’t know Arup and Mott-Mac have become experts in alternative energy sources. They could not have found a more gullible client than the Sri Lankan private sector to sell their wares. Meeting 80% demand from 37 wind farms – stinks like snake oil.

          Never mind the location of wind farms has become a controversial social problem in many countries. Portugal, one of the highest users of wind and solar energy, has found a way to locate wind farms in isolated hill tops.

          How mechanical one’s mind must be to question the academic credentials of someone like Kumar David.

          • 1

            Rajan Phillips and other AKD worshippers

            The problem is not the academic credentials of the socialist LTTE sympathizer AKD. The problem is the leader-worshipping nature of CT commenters who think someone who proclaims himself an ‘expert’ in power distribution is automatically an ‘expert’ in renewable energy. You should realize that the more a person claims to be an ‘expert’ in one field the more they give up any hope of expertise in any other. What are AKD’s contributions or research in renewable energy and distribution? I challenge you (or him) to give us an example of even ONE peer-reviewed publication of his in that field.

            I have no idea whether the two mentioned firms actually did any studies in Sri Lanka as neither of them have more than one-off project presence in the country; however, being a former employee of a competitor of one of those firms (your comment about Mac is laughable, btw – don’t you know these companies have partnerships with the top universities in the world, not Peradeniya or HKP, and enough access to both academic and professional practitioners), I am well aware that they are staffed with far more accomplished and competent EXECUTORS (not talkers and theoreticians) who are also more aware of what is going on in industry because, well, they ARE the industry. Academics will always be just that – academics. We’ve had enough of so called ‘experts’ messing up the world. Let those who can do, and let those who can’t – teach.

            In the mean time, keep making excuses for why things can’t be done. I’m sure 20 years ago you’d have said we can’t browse the Internet on a pocket device, either. Who really cares what you think?

            • 4

              I am not a worshipper of anyone. No one is against alternative energy sources, but how soon can we practically transition to these sources? And how much can these sources contribute to a country’s energy supply?

              The claim that 80% of SL’s energy needs can be supplied by 37 wind farms seems incredulous. Has such a high contribution been achieved in any other country? If you have specific information on wind power potential for SL please share it with others, instead of breaking abusive verbal wind in public.

            • 4

              Komisiripala, people might read you seriously if you refrained from ad hominem personal insults and stayed with the topic.

              EG.”The problem is not the academic credentials of the socialist LTTE sympathizer AKD”. After this is kind of remark the rest of your piece has to be treated as just prejudice. If you say such things you must have the guts to reveal your name; why are you scared?

              And what about my challenge to produce a list of concrete, within 5 years doable, alternative energy projects to generate just 1 TWh (5% of CEB 2020 needs)? All you have to say is “I have no idea whether the two mentioned firms actually did any studies in Sri Lanka”. You are a really silly joker to be pontificating on such thin air. Give me the projects, the GWh and the cost per kWh, not hot air about some great universities and even greater doers.

              Anyway it seems you are more concerned about attacking Rajan Philips and AKD (presumably because they are Tamils to judge from the tenor of your prejudices) than in issues.


              • 0


                Bagehot / Dayanath/ Komisiripala/ Old Codger Redux/ Kollupitiya Kolla/ Mechanic Aiya /Mechanic/ Ela Kolla

                Thats him just Ultra JVP thug.
                Arup are structural engineers and they have large office at Fitzrovia Square Fitzroy St London- Anyone on the street can see the Trust at work.Its beautiful- 2/3 screens each worker.

                He needs medication badly & preferably locked up.

              • 1

                I’m sure you like Kumar David’s LTTE sympathizing here: http://dh-web.org/place.names/posts/Kumar-David

                and here: https://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=27180

                What short memories you have.

                The capacity of renewable energy installed in 2014 alone was higher than the total installed capacity of nuclear power generation in the USA.

                The cost of PV cells has come down by 70% between 2009 and 2014 (freely accessible information online). To the joker who was talking about the cost of replacing cells – you have got the lifespan wrong, and the cost is negligible compared to the savings incurred through running coal and fossil fuel plants.

                I await any evidence that AKD has published or has any knowledge in the area of renewable energy.

                I like this podcast from Oxford University on the same topic: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/can-future-energy-needs-be-met-sustainably

                Unless you are telling me that the fools at Oxford know nothing and AKD knows all?

                Get real.

                • 2

                  “The cost of PV cells has come down by 70% between 2009 and 2014 (freely accessible information online). To the joker who was talking about the cost of replacing cells – you have got the lifespan wrong, and the cost is negligible compared to the savings incurred through running coal and fossil fuel plants.”

                  So you have forgotten about Perovskite? Ha Ha.
                  If it has not dawned on you yet, many of the commentators you are calling idiots are themselves engineers, not Wikipedia pundits.
                  The cost of solar cells has come down, but the govt still has to subsisidize to make them attractive.
                  There is one thing you are obviously unaware of. Let’s say Sri Lanka magically installs 70% wind and solar power, grid-connected. One day, it rains and wind fails at the same time.What will take up the load? Something called “spinning reserve” which is an equivalent number of conventional generators kept on standby.That’s how networks operate. So, add the cost of these to the system . THAT is why CEB does not encourage large solar plants nowadays. It is NOT a conspiracy.
                  Oh, by the way, the prof. is KD . AKD is the JVP leader. Whether or not KD is an LTTE sympathizer or not has no relevance here.
                  I suggest you go find yourself a discussion that suits your mentality.

                  • 2

                    Old Codger

                    “One day, it rains and wind fails at the same time.What will take up the load?”

                    Can we not directly import light from the sun as we did with free rice from moon?

                    Can we also not import surplus sunlight from Saudi, Sahara, …. ?

                    There must be a few home grown engineers who can make it possible.

                    • 0

                      I believe there is one Minister-engineer who proved that a 3-wheeler can run on polythene-derived fuel for all of 5 minutes.

                  • 0

                    Old Codger
                    Theoretically, one could have various energy storage systems ncluding pumped storage. But everything costs.

                    Many of us seem to be stuck with a dangerous mindset of wanting easy answers fringing on miracles— hopefully provided by others —for all our ailments.

                    Being realistic does not come easy.

                    • 1

                      “Many of us seem to be stuck with a dangerous mindset of wanting easy answers fringing on miracles— hopefully provided by others —for all our ailments.”

                      Yes, that is our problem. We want air conditioning, wall-to-wall TV,bigger and bigger shopping malls, apartments, etc, but don’t like the ensuing coal power plants.
                      We should ensure by law that all buildings should be livable without air conditioning, as they were in the past. Away with all those glass facades. Open the windows!

                    • 1


                      “Many of us seem to be stuck with a dangerous mindset of wanting easy answers fringing on miracles— hopefully provided by others —for all our ailments.”

                      How about importing free electricity from Mars?

                    • 0

                      Old Codger
                      Could not agree more.

                      “How about importing free electricity from Mars?”
                      Where did you get the idea? While jogging?
                      Tell the Yahapalanaya promptly, before they approach another planet or constellation.

                    • 1


                      “Where did you get the idea?”

                      From your Guruji Mao, Siri Mao the weeping widow.

                      Did you have a crush on her when you idealised this man in women clothes as the only women heavy weight who was fighting against US imperialism?

                    • 0

                      I should warn you not to jog with ghosts.
                      Your bright ideas can get contaminated.

        • 3

          O great and wise Mechanic,
          For your information, Perovskite is used in some solar cells. It has nothing to do with storage. You still need batteries or pumped water for night-time.
          “It is better to keep one’s mouth closed and be thought an idiot than to open it and have it confirmed”

        • 1

          Mechanic : In these times of www connectivity I do not see how you can ‘Surpress’ any report specially nothing of such importance about the electricity sector! Still if it happened however improbable please email me a copy to hasalaid At gmail Dot com! I would really love to read it! (or point me to a link)

    • 1

      “”High time this outdated academic stopped theorising””

      Bagehot / Dayanath/ Komisiripala/ Old Codger Redux/ Kollupitiya Kolla/ Mechanic Aiya /Ela Kolla

      Still in the gutter. Keep churning till you get embalmed.

      Get Flushed Jobless creep desperate to be heard.

  • 4

    A very informative article. The electrical engineer and the socialist in the author have combined to give sensible conclusions.

    In the country where I work the generation is almost 90% privately owned. Payment is via well defined and transparent formulae that include a capacity charge, availability charge, actual unit supplied charge etc. plus a gas model which calculates the fuel consumed for the actual generation, which is then reimbursed to the generator.

    The payment system is fair for both parties.

    The transmission and distribution system as well as system control is owned by the public authority.

    The system works very well.

    The GCC grid interconnection supplies emergency requirements and hence strengthens system stability.

  • 0

    Green electricity is wonderful, let’s encourage it,
    BUT get real, Manique, Mechanic and other ill-informed amateurs!


    Percent share of total U.S. electricity generation in 2015:

    Coal = 33%
    Natural gas = 33%
    Nuclear = 20%
    Hydropower = 6%
    Other renewables = 7%
    Biomass = 1.6%
    Geothermal = 0.4%
    Solar = 0.6%
    Wind = 4.7%
    Petroleum = 1%
    Other gases = <1%

    China remains the world leader in nuclear capacity additions during the NPS outlook period, averaging nearly 5 GW per year. Coal-fired generation in China grows more than in any other region, but the share of coal in the country’s electricity mix nonetheless declines substantially, from 76% in 2012 to 52% in 2040. Consistent policy support pushes up the shares of generation from non-hydro renewables (3% to 16%), nuclear (2% to 10%) and gas (2% to 8%). The share of hydropower falls by four percentage points, as opportunities to build large-scale dams diminish, though hydro generation still increases by 70% over the Outlook period, accounting for almost one-fourth of incremental hydro generation worldwide.

    For Germany, one of the world leaders in renewables, the electricity
    production data for 2014 was as follows.

    Nuclear: 91.8 TWh (17.2%)
    Brown Coal: 140.7 TWh (26.4%)
    Hard Coal: 110.1 TWh (20.7%)
    Natural Gas: 33.9 TWh (6.4%)
    Wind: 51.4 TWh (9.7%)
    Solar: 32.8 TWh (6.2%)
    Biomass: 53 TWh (10.0%)
    Hydro: 18.5 TWh (3.5%)

  • 1

    Not sure whether this comment is permitted by CT. If the readers have time and understand Sinhala please visit http://www.lankatruth.com and listen to the speech made by a JVP leader (Not Anura Kumara but someone else ) on Video 1. You would be shocked to listen to the mess at CEB.

  • 1

    Professor’s article is pointing out the growing gap in-between the demand for electricity and the infrastructure available in SL to supply the demand. But this issue is an evolving problem and not specific to SL.

    Check for how governments and private companies in the west are teaming up to deal with the sudden demand for electricity due to the arrival of millions of electric cars in coming years. Providing enough electricity at the charging stations to all electric cars during the peak hours is a challenging issue. New technologies are introduced to deal with power management.

    Not sure SL already has plans to implement smart grid to manage the supply and demand of electricity in real time base on the situation.

  • 1

    China is leading in solar panels and is fast capturing markets in industrialized countries. The US is behind Germany in solar technology.

    Solar panel technology has advanced tremendously and solar panels which barely returned the investment in energy (the electrical energy equivalent needed to produce them) in the 1990s are now producing sufficient surplus to justify solar energy as a commercial venture.

    But there still are problems.
    1. Solar panels need a large energy input to make. Which means that we have already spent a sizable part of the lifetime energy output of the solar panel even before it produced electric energy.
    2. Converting DC electricity produced by solar cells to AC incurs a loss, which is getting smaller with improvement in inverter technology. But that will not be negligible.
    3. Transmission from location of production through the grid to the user incurs losses at both ends, decreasing perhaps, but still far from negligible.
    4. The waste produced in the manufacture of the panels and their disposal after useful life pose environmental problems. Raw material could also be an issue if effective recycling is not developed.

    The local picture is somewhat distorted by subsidies provided by governments.

    But technology could before long make solar energy a significant, not large, source of electric energy to supplement conventional sources, but not to replace them.
    There are other ways in which solar electricity can be used more competitively (like battery stored energy for transport).
    The cost, I should stress, has to be worked out in joules (or kWh) as much as in US Dollars (or Yuan or Rupees). Accounting for environmental damage too may be necessary.

    Even when solar energy becomes a profitable and significant source of electric energy globally, we in Sri Lanka will be lacking the technology and will pay a big price for it.

    Our wind resources are not great and the energy capital investment has to be counted although not as large per unit gross energy output as for solar energy.

    Our biggest problem is ourselves: we want development; we want growing consumption. But we also demand a clean and safe environment.

    It s good to be hopeful and to strive for the best. But as several before me have stressed the need for caution.
    There are no simple answers; and good things in life are not always free.

    Let us explore our solar and wind options, but with some thought to a degree of self sufficiency.

    Let us also guard against the country ending up as a dumping ground for renewable energy junk, which is unrenewable.

  • 3

    Picture an idiot like me with a 1.5 million rupee 7 kW PV installation with Perestroika, sorry Perovskite storage. I produce enough kWh for my own use in daytime and store the surplus for night usage. Even then I have a surplus kWh to export to the grid.

    I have also installed capacitors because the CEB idiots insist on kVARh corresponding to 0.6 times the kVAh you supply to them. They say who else can supply that? They have retired 90% of the conventional generators. They could have used them as synchronous condensers to supply the reactive power requirements. But then as everyone knows, they are idiots. By the way, the capacitors cost me another Rs 300,000.

    My smart inverters supply the allocated kW and the KVAR earning me a lot of money.

  • 1

    Sarath Chandrasiri can you supply a little more information?

    Assuming say 10 year lifetime for your PV installation and say 5% interest rate till then, what is your cost per kWh? And please mention any subsidies involved since that is a cost to the economy even if not to you.

    Also kindly let us know the amount of energy you produce in an average year.

    Is the storage (battery?) investment included in the 1.5 million?

    What do you mean by the CEB has “retired 90% of the conventional generators”?
    How many MW or MVA of installed capacity has been retired by the CEB (and by private generators) in say the last 10 years? In the case of private generators I mean RETIRED not just mothballed since energy is has not been purchased for some time.


    • 2

      EWG, Sorry. I forgot to mention that the scenario I presented was a hypothetical futuristic one.

      Scenario: PV prices become competitive with other sources of energy and every Tom, Dick and Harry goes for roof top panels of kW range with storage and connected to the grid.

      On a commercial scale, CEB and private investors bring in renewable energy power plant.

      CEB stops investing in new conventional plant completely and gradually decommission existing conventional plant as renewable energy starts penetrates deeper and deeper.

      But some technical problems have to be solved.

      System Frequency Support. This depends on the kW (active power). In conventional generating plant the machines respond instantaneously in case of generation losses in the system, first by converting the kinetic energy stored in their rotors to electrical power, followed more slowly by governor action finally followed by operator manual action. All motors running in the system including those of consumers (even small ones such as air conditioners) do the same. The converse happens if there is a load loss and the system frequency increases.

      System Voltage support: This depends on the kVAR (reactive power). In conventional generating plant the machines respond to voltage changes via their AVR (Automatic voltage Regulators) by rapidly changing the field current followed by manual action.

      In conventional generating plant the initial conversion of kinetic energy to electrical power (called Primary response) is a natural process not depending on man-made controllers or direct manual action.

      In PV plant there is no such natural action. However, smart inverters have been designed to have what is known as a frequency droop characteristic to get the same result but at a higher cost. Every PV installation will need this.

      In PV plant capacitor banks and sophisticated controllers are needed to provide reactive power support for controlling the system voltage. Who will pay for this? In my hypothetical scenario not the CEB. It will be the home owner (or the private investor in the case of big installations).

      Final cost When you calculate investment cost, all these factors plus many others not mentioned here will have to be considered.

      • 1

        Mr Sarath,

        When I talk to the Old school – traditional sync machine based generation lobbyists, they tell me that Renewables (wind, solar) are highly subsidized and the calculations are not levelized!

        When I talk to the new school renewable lobbyists, they tell me that externalities are not accounted for and the dirty power is also subsidized!

        Frequency support in wind power can be tackled by having synthetic inertia and by derated operation in PV.

        Voltage support is a much easier problem to tackle since the future grid is interfaced by VSCs and the can be extremely flexible when it comes to the P Q output. Extra capacitors will not be needed at all.

        Though you do state the possible disadvantages, you do not look at the advantages such as not needing to pay for the transmission system or its enhancements, CO2 reductions, not needing to rely on foreign countries for fuel or be subjected to the volatile fuel prices!

        I think we need to be open minded about this and try to see both sides of the problem.

        In an ultimate futuristic scenario we will not be having any fossil fuels right? SO we need to think of how we will power up the world in a fossil fuel less scenario and As of now we need to seriously look at PV and wind and all other possible alternatives.

        • 2

          Hasala, I am sorry that you say “Though you do state the possible disadvantages, you do not look at the advantages such as not needing to pay for the transmission system or its enhancements, CO2 reductions, not needing to rely on foreign countries for fuel or be subjected to the volatile fuel prices!”

          I am only pointing out the possible technical problems that the non electrical guys may not know about. I am having an open mind and only trying to shed some light on certain dark areas.

          Perhaps, I will make a detailed response later.

        • 1

          Reactive Power Support (The 2nd comment that I promised)

          Hasala, you say, “Voltage support is a much easier problem to tackle since the future grid is interfaced by VSCs and the can be extremely flexible when it comes to the P Q output. Extra capacitors will not be needed at all”.

          I think you mean SVC (Static VAR Compensators) and not VSC, which stands for Voltage Source Converters, which you may come across in DC transmission.

          Having said that, your statement could be highly misleading in the context of PV, where we are talking about costs. Conventional generators can supply and absorb reactive power in large amounts and it comes ‘free’ as part of the generator natural behavior. In other words, these, while generating active power can also act as huge capacitors (or reactors) at the touch of a button.

          In the present systems, the major overall reactive power burden is taken up by the rotating generators while relatively minor local requirements are taken up by reactors and capacitors. Rapid speed of reaction and the magnitude of such reaction is considered as an important parameter for proper protective relay operation and system stability under major disturbances.

          Your statement “Extra capacitors will not be needed at all” is completely wrong. The SVC is only a control device. It cannot act as a capacitor (or a reactor) by itself. The capacitors (or reactors) have to be there as separate entities. The absence of the conventional generators has to be covered by capacitors.

          To give you an example, an Army can be made to fight a war more effectively by the use of modern communication and information gathering devices and graphical interphases giving a wide overview. But these by themselves (like SVC’s) cannot fight a war. A war has to be fought by soldiers and in the process they kill and get killed. That is the price paid by them.

          Wind Generators In the case of wind generators, the situation is worse, because they absorb huge amounts of reactive power.

          “Frequency support in wind power can be tackled by having synthetic inertia and by derated operation in PV.” I have already said it can. But when you calculate the cost/kWh, do not forget to adjust the kWh output to account for that.

          Some of you guys are really optimistic to talk about 70% renewable penetration in Sri Lanka, whereas in sunny California, one of the leading PV states of USA, they are talking about 50% penetration in the near future and how to manage it. (Ref Power Engineering Journal June 2015 of IEEE).

          By the way contrary to some of our smart commentators believe, IEEE (Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers of USA) is the world’s largest body of professional Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

          • 1

            no wonder the kids called it fire wire – eeeeee

          • 2

            Even GEC does not go looking out for Electrical and electronic engineers for top management post when they send out head hunters to get the very best from their universities. -Over 90% in space engineering is their best bet- i am saying this this with authority but cannot say more because then i disclose myself too.
            Electrical Engineers generally had and have this complex that they are it when computers dawned but it is not so- the break through that bill gates got came from Hippy – it is not knee jerk.
            When it comes to automation then it is industrial engineering only at PG level ie after B Tech. Lankan standards are low British and association.

            We all grew up in tradition lawyers doctors accountants etc- but these are mere clerical now- A GP at practice is `prescription dispenser` it is
            Biomedicine that creates the tablets.
            Royal Society UK President is bouble PhD biochem and Bio physics same time and nobel prize chemistry- on invitation by queen

            • 1

              Zorro, don’t worry about me overestimating myself. I have met electrical bas unnehes who are a lot smarter than me.

              I don’t really care whom GEC goes looking for. At my age even the corner bicycle repair shop would not offer me a job. I don’t really know why my present employer keeps me. It is a mystery for all.

              • 0

                “” I have met electrical bas unnehes who are a lot smarter than me.””

                Perhaps they learnt it from Farther Ignatius.

                “I don’t really care whom GEC goes looking for.”

                They lead and the world follows.There is nothing you can do about it.
                I never employ a logical man because he is not necessarily human but a reasonable man/woman.
                Why he keeps is because over there enterprise does not come in the vocabulary
                So known devil is better than the unknown- no mystery.

          • 2

            A BIG MISTAKE and AN APOLOGY

            One has to admit it when one is wrong and I do that in this instant.

            I was wrong when I said “Your statement “Extra capacitors will not be needed at all” is completely wrong. The SVC is only a control device. It cannot act as a capacitor (or a reactor) by itself. The capacitors (or reactors) have to be there as separate entities. The absence of the conventional generators has to be covered by capacitors.”

            Those interested may go to: https://www.bpa.gov/doing%20business/technologyinnovation/conferencesvoltagecontroltechnical/voltageandreactivepowercontrolge.pdf

            There it shows that reactive power can be supplied even when there is no wind.

            The secret is in the Doubly Fed Induction Generator (DFIG). When I saw this article, I knew I had made a big mistake. I had forgotten my favorite Schrage motor, which can supply or absorb reactive power simply by changing the brush axis. This is an experiment that we had done with Prof Paul 50 years ago.

            The DFIG is a form of variable speed Schrage motor.

            Lesson learnt: There is no fool like an old fool.

            But what I said about PV still applies – I think. Ha! Ha!

  • 5

    There is no future without breaking up CEB into generation, transmission and distribution.

    Create competition and that’s the way forward.

    Imagine what has happened to Telecom sector after privatization. My parents waited 10 years in 1980 to get a telephone connection!!!

    Are you aware that most laborers at CEB get Rs 80,000 with all allowances.!!!

    GOSL cannot run commercial enterprises due to political influence.

    Are you aware that Chinese Container Terminal handles 1.5 million containers annually with 1,000 staff and SLPA handles just over that volume with 9,000 employees and that is GOSL efficiency.

    • 2

      “Are you aware that most laborers at CEB get Rs 80,000 with all allowances.!!! “
      Many Govt employees are overpaid for what they do.
      I hear SLPA container crane operators make 300,000.
      Yes, and SLPA has a loss of 21 billion.
      No wonder all these guys are afraid of ETCA!

      • 2

        Old Codger,
        the only alternative is get rid of them and bring in the army. This is what UK would do and Cameron had threatened. Dr Kumar would not like it-one cant have everything then one becomes god.
        Hit the clenched fisted thugs in the belly then they understand.
        But then when the leaders are off their tops and corrupt to the core. What do you do.
        Quite a few former Lankan who visited when MR was ruling was impressed with the road networks development.etc. It was pleasant surprise.
        India is strong and ETCA is good for Lanka- India would take up just 2 marine and something while they are offering 20 different but the JVP has written so much of filth on utube about it and india. its possible to get rid of them by complaining and the government should it.
        How you going to solve this future terror menace??

      • 0

        Old Codger, as you have quoted in part, Jagath Fernando says.

        “Are you aware that most laborers at CEB get Rs 80,000 with all allowances.!!! GOSL cannot run commercial enterprises due to political influence. Are you aware that Chinese Container Terminal handles 1.5 million containers annually with 1,000 staff and SLPA handles just over that volume with 9,000 employees and that is GOSL efficiency”.

        If this is true (its so amazing that I would like to check it with others) then you are absolutely right when you say.

        “No wonder all these guys are afraid of ETCA!”

        • 1

          Check out what cabin crew get paid at Sri Lankan too. It tops 250,000 with allowances.

          • 1

            Old Codger ,
            This is what makes Boris the right wing journalist popular:
            Mayor Paying £400 To Londoners To Upgrade Boiler
            New government scheme to pay out £400 towards boiler replacements, with £100s saved in gas bills. More folk die of cold then heat. It cost £1200 to have the best boiler installed. Commie Ken could never think like this.
            Have new wiring done in Lankan homes for efficiency and let the government pay an incentive than let CEB employees be paid higher commissions and hold citizen to ransom..

  • 1

    Prof. Kumar David,
    Some info for you from London: End user. From Powergen owned by Tesco it separated and went over to EoN (German) (its billing system is class but made a blunder in forward buying for fixed rate to old folks but its possible to change packages anytime on the net) EoN promises auto reading soon. on the net its all on Auto mode and informs best packages etc.- bit like 3D programs.
    But 3 companies amalgamated to form EDF which is the wholesaler and visits end user place once in 6 months to check the meters.
    Don’t hear of CEGB but EDF (french) are in the news because they are to build the new nuclear reactors But activist have cautioned because recently at France their estimated cost went up 3 times on completion. While Boris Johnson completed the Olympic faster than the Chinese and Cheaper than the estimate Of your ever loving Commie Ken Livingston. Boris is a journalist travels by bike and paid a million in taxes which is half his earnings while your Corbyn (left loony) got fined £100 for being late and paid just £19k as taxes. As you know boris is not English but is classic and has a great sense of humour.

  • 1

    Norocholai and other Thermal power plants should be converted to joint stock companies and offered to Chinese, Indian and other investors with management control by the investor. The government shareholding should be not more than 49%.The board remuneration should be transparent and restricted, to prevent nepotism and multi-million rupee payments to government appointed directors.

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