Sri Lanka is to establish a fully automated and centralized electricity performance monitoring and dispatch unit in Pelawatte with a US$ 100 million funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka said recently.

Speaking to The Nation Gain, Ranawaka stated that construction work on the unit has already commenced and it is expected to be fully functional by 2017.

The unit is being set up to overcome practical difficulties faced in the existing system in terms of monitoring and coordinating distribution of electricity from all plants. Accordingly, the unit will function as a fully-equipped center where every information pertaining to power production would be recorded and shared automatically between the controller and producer.

Meanwhile, the government has also launched a special training program to workers at the dispatch unit. In addition, the Minister also assured that there would be no job losses owing to the establishment of the new unit adding that the current employees were being given training on the new technology used. “There are approximately 10 to 15 employees at the dispatch unit at the moment. They are being trained on handling the computerized unit,” the Minister said.

The Minister pointed out that the existing manual system contained several drawbacks. “We needed to upgrade the entire system owing to the discrepancies. With this unit, the distribution process will be smooth and streamlined,” he added.

Currently, Sri Lanka’s dispatch unit is semi-automated and uses a technology used in 1982. The fully-automated unit is expected to streamline island-wide power distribution and address technical discrepancies that were reported under the existing manual system.

According to experts, a dispatch unit monitors various aspects of power generations such as power generation, rainfalls, temperature and customer demand.

Energy sector expert Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya speaking to The Nation Gain said the current system had many drawbacks in terms of coordination between the power stations and controller in Colombo. “Every information has to be conveyed through phone calls, which is a tedious process. The new system would address this by providing all details needed on the screens in front of the operator, so that he would know how to balance the power distribution of each plant with the consumption demand,” he said.

In addition, according to Dr. Siyambalapitiya, the current system is not equipped with archiving facilities. “It archives certain details. But not all. What we need is a comprehensive archival system that would enable us to study them when needed,” he added.
Currently, all countries in the SAARC region have adopted the automated system. “India has a more advanced system where it is done online,” he said.

He further stated that Sri Lanka was late in adopting such a system. “We should upgrade our system every 15 months, which is an international norm,” he added.