COLOMBO Sri Lanka will turn off electricity across the country for three hours daily until July 28, the state-run power firm said on Tuesday, after technical problems have knocked out almost a quarter of its generating capacity.
The nationwide power cut, which starts on Tuesday, was implemented after Sri Lanka's 300 megawatt MW.L Chinese-built coal power plant at Norocholai failed last week for a fifth time since it was commissioned in March last year.
Sri Lanka has lost another 100 MW from a combined diesel power plant, and an extended drought has decimated hydro power's contribution to the national grid.
In all, Sri Lanka has lost 22 percent of its capacity to meet peak demand of 1.81 gigawatts GW.L as a result of the power station failures, state-run Ceylon Electricity Board's CEB.L website www.ceb.lk/ showed.
"The only alternative to resolve the current situation is to go for power cuts," CEB said in a statement.
Sri Lanka has total electricity generating capacity of 3.1 GW, but hydro power's normal output of 1.2 GW has been cut by more than 1 GW as a result of the drought which began in March officials at the Power and Energy Ministry told Reuters.
In January, CEB's Technological Engineers Union blamed a Chinese firm for repeated technical failures at Norocholai, the country's only coal-fired power plant, say they were either caused by sabotage or negligence by the operator.
Most international businesses have their own backup generators to use during the outages, and it was not immediately clear how disruptive the July power cuts would be.
Sri Lanka has long maintained uninterrupted power supply, one of its main pledges to voters and investors, except in 1996 and 2001/2 when it endured power cuts due to severe droughts.
The 1996 cuts were partially responsible for economic growth slowed to a seven-year low of 3.8 percent in that year, from 5.5 percent a year earlier. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)