JV with China to eliminate electricity meter shortages

The Lanka Electric Company (Pvt) Limited (LECO) in collaboration with Ante Meter Company of China will manufacture electricity meters to meet the growing demand of meters. The joint venture is a landmark event leading to economic development of the country and will avoid the existing meter shortages. On the instructions of Power and Energy Minister the joint venture agreement between LECO and Ante Meter Company of China was signed at Trans-Asia hotel recently, Power and Energy Ministry sources said.

Power and Energy Minister W.D.J.Seneviratne told The Island that the manufacture of electricity meters in Sri Lanka would be a pioneering effort which would provide an answer to the perennial problem of meter shortages faced by the CEB. The CEB has been struggling with meter shortages for many years and a large number of meter tenders during the last year could not be accepted due to protests launched by various parties.

He pointed out that some of the tenders were presently before courts. The inability of the CEB to purchase its annual requirements of meters had given rise to a great deal of inconvenience to the people and had caused enormous loss to the CEB. Without meters the CEB was unable to charge its consumers for electricity actually consumed and unmetered supplies were causing substantial revenue loss to the CEB. Inability to provide new connections due to meter shortage was depriving the poor consumers the ability to have electricity in their homes.

Minister Seneviratne said that successive governments had grappled with this problem, only to provide temporary relief. Previous governments had also identified local manufacture of meters as a possible solution to this problem but such plans had not proceeded beyond the discussion stage. The joint venture was a decision taken by the National Economic Development Council of Sri Lanka under the chairmanship of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. This decision, in keeping with the Mahinda Chintanaya emphasising the local manufacture of equipment that could be produced would undoubtedly have far-reaching benefits.

He noted that the principal objectives of the new manufacturing venture would extend beyond just supplying the local requirements which presently stood around 450,000 meters per year. The joint venture would be looking at the possibilities of supplying meters to other markets within the region as well as those outside such as African countries. There had been some allegations that the process of the joint venture partner had not been transparent, but the Power and Energy Ministry at the outset had only acted as the facilitator in this process and left all decision-making to the LECO Board of Directors.

Minister Seneviratne added that the CEB, being the majority shareholder of LECO, was represented on its board and five out of seven board members were appointed by the board of CEB. Both Chairman and General Manager of CEB were ex-officio Directors of LECO and all decisions taken by the Board of Directors of LECO safeguard the interests of both LECO and CEB. LECO had followed a very transparent process in selecting its joint venture partner. The expressions of interests from prospective manufacturers of meters for the joint venture were invited through an advertisement published in newspapers.

Referring to the tender procedure involved in the joint venture,Minister Seneviratne outlined that based on the recommendations of the TEC,LECO Board of Directors a Negotiating Committee was appointed headed by the Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy to negotiate with the three top-ranking bidders and select a suitable technical partner for the proposed joint venture. The report of the Negotiating Committee that recommended Ante Meter Company Limited as the most suitable joint venture partner was accepted by the Board of Directors of LECO.

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