Energy Minister ensures bidding process will continue even after Electricity Act changes – The Island
By Saman Indrajith
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera told Parliament on Wednesday that proposed amendments to Sri Lanka’s Electricity Act would not lead to the abolition of the bidding process for electricity supply.
The minister said they were only trying to facilitate the implementation of sustainable energy products subject to approval by the Sustainable Energy Authority.
“There is also a misconception that the changes in the law allow various companies, including foreign ones, to raise electricity prices according to their whims and fancies,” he said.
Minister Wijesekera said that even after the amendments, it was the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) that had the power to determine the price of a unit of electricity.
“The CEB has a pricing formula for purchasing electricity. The formula is implemented by officials from the CEB, the Ministry and the Sustainable Energy Authority. Government and Cabinet cannot decide the rate at which we would buy power from the supplier,” he said.
In the past, the CEB had done its best to thwart renewable energy projects, the minister said. The existing law helps the CEB place barriers for those who want to invest in renewable energy, he said.
There had been discussions to change the law since August 2013, he said. However, some powerful sections of the CEB had opposed changes that would reduce their powers.
“Only some engineers are opposed to the amendments. These are people who lobbied for thermal power plants and thwarted attempts to boost renewable energy. Last week, the CEB asked me to increase electricity tariffs by 300%. The cost of electricity generation is over 755 billion rupees per year. Our income is 250 billion rupees per year. There is a discrepancy of 500 billion rupees. We pay colossal sums for diesel and to pay civil servants. Officer salaries increase by 25%, once every three years.
“Do we have to pay for these unnecessary cost overruns by placing an additional burden on people? No, we have to do it by cutting costs,” he said.
The minister said he would not come forward with proposals to raise electricity tariffs unless the CEB takes action to boost low-cost, clean renewables.
Minister Wijesekera said that it was the CEB officials who made deals with various electricity suppliers. The cost of a unit of electricity at Lakvijaya Power Station is Rs 41.80, it is Rs 80.50 at Sojitz Kelanitissa Pvt Ltd, Rs 61.56 at Power Station B, Sapugaskanda, Rs 66.42 at Central A, Sapugaskanda, 62.14 rupees at the barge, 65.52 at Uthuru Janani, 68.20 on the west coast, 98.40 rupees at Kelanitissa Combined Cycle, 137.60 at Kelanitissa G-T7 and 182.40 at Kelanitissa Frame 5, the minister said.
“The unit of electricity produced from renewable sources costs 16.80 rupees. Solar is bought at 22.50 rupees. A unit of electricity by hydro costs 4.35 rupees. Don’t take steps to thwart renewables. At present, the energy permit is granted one year after the provisional approval, even if you own the land where the project will be implemented,” he said.
The minister said $800 million is needed to buy coal for next year. The government spent $100 million a month on diesel, needed to generate thermal power.
“We will produce more than the country needs through these energy projects. I think we need to connect our electricity grid with India. We will soon be selling power to India,” he predicted.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said he supported renewable energy and wanted to strengthen domestic power producers. However, the real purpose of the amendments to the Electricity Law was to allow certain foreign companies to monopolize the renewable energy sector, he claimed.
Those opposed to the amendments to the law were not against increasing renewable energy generation, Premadasa said. They were only opposed to attempts by the government to take competitiveness out of the procurement process, he said.
“We will end up letting these foreign companies dominate the industry and pay them in dollars. And we will pay them double what we pay domestic producers. By amending section 43 of the act, we will only take away competitiveness. This will facilitate the monopolization of renewable energy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ven. Naturaliye Rathana Thera said that even countries that have vast oil and coal reserves are turning to renewable energy sources. Sri Lanka has not attempted to harness solar and wind power, which is abundant here, he said. The United Nations Development Program allocates around US$100 million a year to support such projects, but Sri Lanka has never tried to access these funds, thera said.
The president, in his election manifesto, said Sri Lanka should generate 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, he said.
“Today we get 65% of our electricity from diesel and coal. Nothing has been done since the president came to power. Has the CEB established long-term generation plans based on the President’s vision? Did the government not see this crisis coming? Many people tried to warn the government. Instead of changing pieces of the law, the government must come up with a national electricity policy, which it promised to do,” Rathana Thera said.
Thera added that the Prime Minister promised to establish a committee of experts and representatives of all parties when making important decisions. This has not been done with regard to amending the important law, he said.
Thera also said it supports renewable energy. However, there was reason to believe that the changes to the law were intended to create a monopoly on solar and wind energy for the benefit of a foreign company.
“Not only will we continue to lose money, but we will also lose our energy sovereignty. The law needs to be changed, but if you try to encourage unsolicited tenders under the pretext of promoting renewable energies, that will only have disastrous consequences. There is no problem in allowing unsolicited bids from investors who want to generate less than 25 megawatts through renewable energy,” he said, adding that there were many Sri Lankans abroad and that they would send solar panels and batteries home if the process was facilitated. .
“The government will have to bear little cost. Let’s encourage solar panels on the roofs, if most people install these systems, we will have no problem. We don’t need to think too much about this. We don’t need to try to build massive companies. We can easily produce a gigawatt of energy from rooftop solar and if we can do that, we won’t have a crisis. »