Aug 23 (Reuters) A Chinese firm which designed Sri Lanka's only coal power plant said recent repeated failures were due to over-utilisation of the plant without annual maintenance, after an extended drought reduced 85 percent of the country's hydro power generation.
Sri Lanka's state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) on Aug. 13 extended nation-wide daily power cuts by two weeks, due to repeated problems at the plant in Norochcholai which knocked out almost a fifth of the island's generating capacity.
"The Norochcholai coal power plant was forced to work beyond its required limits and keep supplying electricity to the whole country," Zhao Wenxue, deputy chief engineer of Northwest Electric Power Design Institute, designer of the plant, said in a statement.
Sri Lanka imposed power cuts in July for the first time since 2001 after the plant failed for a fifth time since it was commissioned in March last year.
The 300 megawatt (MW) plant was repaired but another technical failure forced the utility to again turn off electricity for two hours and 15 minutes daily. The CEB has criticised the plant's record and said it had not been performing up to the expected level.
China loaned $450 million for the first phase of the plant and another $891 million for the second phase, which is due to be completed by July 2014 when the plant is expected to generate 900 MW.
Sri Lanka has long maintained uninterrupted power supplies, one of its main pledges to voters and investors, except in 1996 and 2001/2 when it endured power cuts due to severe droughts.