Proposed electricity tariff increase affects industry

The Industrial Sector has been expressing their concern about the uncompetitive Industrial Tariff Electricity for a considerable period of time. The existing Tariff itself is much higher than those in other Countries with whom Sri Lankan Industries have to compete. Besides the Tariff, the quality of the power supply too is much to be desired and continues to be a burden for the Industry.

Instead of remedying these unfavourable factors which impede Industry it is now proposed to increase the tariff by which the Industrial Sector will be called upon to pay as much as 25-30% increase. It is considered to be an unbearable increase which will adversely affect the Industrial Sector.

Several Sectors of the Industry are already tottering due to high cost of electricity, while some others are finding it difficult to be cost effective. High cost of interest, restriction of the movement due to security situation, increasing cost of transport and services, numerous holidays, impact of spiraling inflation, numerous taxes and levies are additional burden on the Industry. Instead of taking steps to lessen these impediments and help enhance the competitiveness in a free market economy, adding up further hardships on the Industry by way of increased power tariff would certainly destabilize the Industrial Sector with disastrous consequences on the National Economy.

The Proposed 25-30% increase would seriously affect the export Industries and many of them would jeopardize their markets if they attempt to pass these costs over or gradually fade away due to erosion of their margins. These equally applies to Industries which cater to the local market as they too have to compete with imported goods and therefore cannot pass on the increased cost risking their sales.

Cumulative effect of all these will be the loss of export revenue, increase volumes of imports to the Country, lower tax revenue to the state, reduced wages or loss of employment and gradual disintegration of the Industrial base of the Country. More and more local Industries would explore the possibility of relocating in other Countries. Thus instead of attracting Foreign Direct Investment, Industries will move away from Sri Lanka.

Reasons for proposed increase in Tariff is attributed to the increase in cost of fuel and withdrawal of the subsidy granted hitherto to Ceylon Electricity Board by the Treasury, may be justified from the perspective of Ceylon Electricity Board. However, as the voice of Industries in this Country, CNCI which has played a prominent role in canvassing for the commencement of the Coal Power Plant and Upper Kotmale Hydro Project for over 05 years , reluctantly compelled to say that the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Country as a whole is called upon to bear this burden due to shortsighted policies of successive Governments. The political leaders of recent times who did not take the decision that had to be taken at the appropriate time for fear of losing the ballot should bear the responsibility for the current debacle.

We are also told that by year 2011 when the Coal Power Plant and Upper Kotmale Hydro Power Projects are up and running, the competitive Tariff could be made available. Assuming that the two new power generation projects are commissioned as scheduled one would wonder how the Industrial Sector could sustain itself in the intervening period.

The Industrial Sector of this Country accounts for 17% of the GDP, provide employment for over 1.5 million people and Earn valuable foreign exchange through Export Income in region of 80% of the external trade. Therefore our contention is that this Sector cannot be sacrificed to salvage the Ceylon Electricity Board which is a bane in the Country’s development efforts due to shortsighted policies of successive Governments and mismanagement of affairs by the Ceylon Electricity Board . It is not possible to destroy the Industrial Base now and then rejuvenate it in 2011.

Industries are not seeking subsidies but quality power at competitive rates, if not completive rates at least to maintain the current Tariff rates. We therefore, urge the Government to intervene and pick up the increased cost, which the Industrial Sector is being called upon to pay and to relieve them of this proposed burden.

We also suggest the following;

u To let the Industry know at what price level of oil the proposed Tariff has been computed at.

u To allow those who generate alternative forms of power such as mini hydro etc., and feed to Ceylon Electricity Board grid in one location be afforded the facility to buy it back in another location from the Ceylon Electricity Board grid at a lower cost, what is termed as wheeling, which is successfully operated in India.

u Impose a CESS on incandescent electric bulbs and use the CESS income to promote and subsidize the CFL bulbs, which would substantially reduce the usage of power.

u Remove all forms of import duties and taxes including VAT on the import of equipment and accessories, which are used in Energy Saving Projects.

u Ceylon Electricity Board take steps , on priority basis to reduce the transmission losses at least by 1% within one year. We are of the view that the saving so would will help in recouping a substantial amount from what is to be collected by the increased Tariff from the Industrial Sector.

u Involve the Chamber in the progress monitoring of the implementation of the Coal Power Plant and Upper Kotmale Hydro Power Project.

u Earlier attempts to restructure Ceylon Electricity Board failed and consumer is called upon to pay for the inefficiency of the Ceylon Electricity Board too. Therefore we propose that new power generation projects such as the Coal Power Plant and UKHP be commissioned and managed by a new Government owned Company distinct from the Ceylon Electricity Board which finds even the current size of its operations unwieldy.


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