CEB needs better management, not reforms: Ex-PUCSL Chief

Wednesday, 9 August 2023 03:16 –      – 74

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Former PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake – Pic by Shehan Gunasekera

 


  •  Says proposed Act poses problems than fixing
  •  Questions rationale to split CEB into 12
  •  Warns draft Act vests draconian powers with Minister 
  •  Claims public in dark. 
  •  Failure to pay Rs. 9 million costs billions for 8 years 

By Darshana Abayasingha


Former Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayake yesterday claimed management failures at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) are costing the country billions of rupees in losses, in addition to inconveniencing millions of public.

Addressing the media, Ratnayake said the CEB needs effective management more urgently than restructuring, whilst 300% tariff increases cannot make up for management failures.

The former PUCSL Chief pointed to issues with power supply to the southern province as ample evidence. He noted that power supply to the southern province must be purchased due to the CEB’s inability, or disinterest, to solve a simple problem with regards to transmission. As a result, the CEB incurs billions in losses annually, whilst the public in the southern province must endure longer power cuts in the south compared to the rest of the country. “This is an issue coming from 2015. Transmitting power to the south has always been a problem due to a length of a mere 650 meters that runs over private land. As per estimates, this is simply a matter of payment amounting to Rs. 9 million to the owner.

But, the CEB will not do it, and instead continues to pay billions of rupees to purchase power. Perhaps they want to purchase power,” Ratnayake charged.

The matter has finally come before the PUCSL and drawn Cabinet attention last month, and the former Chairman expressed hope it would be resolved without heaping further burdens on the people of the south. “This is an issue of management, not something a 300% tariff increase will fix,” he said.

Ratnayake also presented what he called “leaked CEB restructuring draft Act”, which he opined was not independent and affords a questionable degree of powers to individuals.

In a document presented by him, Ratnayake notes the draft Act proposes tariffs to be decided based on methodology issued by the Power and Energy Minister and approved by the regulator.

There is nothing the regulator can do once the methodology is given by the Minister, he says. At present, tariffs are decided in accordance with Tariff methodology approved by the PUCSL. He adds the final decision on tariff is taken by the electricity appeals tribunal appointed by the Minister, which is not independent. Ratnayake points out licencing decisions are also vested with one person and a final decision by the electricity appeals tribunal.

In addition, there is no clear dispute resolution method spelt out in the proposed Act, whereas the PUCSL could step in under the existing Act. The current structure has three pillars – CEB, LECO and Independent Power Producers – whilst the new structure has 12; split into hydropower, coal, thermal, transmission, distribution companies, etc. that could translate to added cost.

All CEB employees will be employees of private companies once the new act comes into place, and not enough attention is paid to consumer rights, Ratnayake states. There is no power for regulators to enforce licenses. Hence, this Act has only considered the benefits of companies and not the consumers, Ratnayake added.

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