Consumers pull the plug on consumption as electricity bills become livewiresView(s):
Overflowing reservoirs are seasonal, hence rate hike remains says CEB while waste, corruption, mismanagement are never out of season
As the electricity bills with the new tariff started coming in this week, middle income earners are preparing for the additional expenditure, adjusting their lifestyles and introducing measures to reduce consumption. The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) figures show that the increase in bills could vary from Rs 750 to Rs 4,000 for the middle income groups.
Buddhinandana Kahandawala, a public school teacher told the Sunday Times that the worst affected by the new electricity charges will be teachers and other State employees from the low income bracket. He said that a majority of teachers from the outskirts of Colombo tend to do extra classes after school, to complete the syllabus, which prevents teachers from conducting tuition classes to supplement their income.
He said that teachers will be compelled to find alternatives with the new electricity charges, as most of them check books and mark examination papers late into the night. “Teachers advise students to do their evening studies in the kitchen, when their mothers are preparing the evening meal, so that multiple tasks get done under one light. This is one way of reducing consumption, as most cannot afford the increased charges with their present incomes,” said Mr. Kahandawala.
A cross section of government servants say the salary increment of Rs 750 per State employee, allocated from the Budget, will not be sufficient to pay their increased electricity bill. A consumer using 91 units will pay Rs 1,696 as against the previous bill of Rs 982.
A university student speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the electricity issue will have a major impact on their education, as university students residing in private boarding houses cannot study late into the night, as landlords tend to switch off lights early because of the new tariff.
She said that the entire student community in the country will be at a disadvantage because of their inability to access the internet or view television for the above reasons.
A stall owner at Galle Face Green, Sharmila Thuwan pointed out that their electricity bills have not reduced even after switching off the electrical equipment at night, and fears that this month’s electricity bill will exceed the total expenditure they have estimated for the month.
“Stall owners at Galle Face Green have to pay Rs 1,200 per month for electricity, while electricity consumption at home exceeds 60 units every month. With the rising cost of living, we are at a loss to reduce electrical consumption.”According to T. Dayalan, a retired public servant, even though the new tariff system grants concessions to low and high income earners, it has disregarded the middle income group. He said that the State should initiate measures to reduce public waste of electricity such as switching off street lights early, which remain switched on till mid-day.
Three-wheeler driver Samson Sudusinghe displayed anger, accusing the ministers and CEB officials of waste, corruption and mismanagement, which caused the electricity price hike.
He added that the Government should do away with the increase, as they have difficulty coping with the increase in the present utility charges and permit an increase in three-wheeler fares. Citizen’s movements are agitating for relief to middle income earners, as virtually all the reservoirs are overflowing due to the continuous thundershowers in the recent past, and hydropower would be at optimum capacity. However, the CEB says that electricity pricing cannot be altered according to climate change, as weather patterns vary.
According to Sri Lanka Electricity Movement advisor Bandula Chandrasekara, one third of the total electricity requirement can be generated through hydropower due to the recent heavy rains, as energy generation has increased from 2,400 KWh to 4,000 KWh, which has exceeded the CEB’s estimated rainfall for the year.
“The CEB will have to improve its efficiency in its water management system to increase hydropower generation to cover up their losses, and also allow the CEB to reduce electricity charges in future,” said Mr. Chandrasekara. He said that electricity charges have been increased from 12% to 20% for small enterprises which will result in a price increase of their products in future. However, 90% of all industries are small-timers and their total electricity consumption is 10% of the total.
He said that the coal crisis has not been resolved, as the Government has not confirmed a coal supplier for the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, due to technical and transparency issues in tender call-ups. The plant is scheduled to commence operations early next year, according to the Government.
Mr. Chandrasekara said a system such as the Merit Order Dispatch System should be put in place to eliminate corruption and fraud. The Merit Order Dispatch System is one which enables the lowest net cost electricity to be dispatched first, and continue to the highest, according to the power demand, thereby reducing the overall electricity costs to the consumers.
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