Power tariff hike in the offing after April 4

* Stakeholders allowed to make representa tions till March 28
* Public hearing on April 4
*Industrialists up in arms

By Ravi Ladduwahetty

An electricity tariff hike is in the offing after March 4 with industrial sources expecting a 10% increase.

"The Ceylon Electricity Board has sent me the proposals for the tariff increase but in order to be fair, we will allow all stakeholders to make their written representations till March 28,’’ Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) Dr. Jayatissa De Costa, PC, told the Sunday Island yesterday.

He said that the decision will be made after the written representations which close on March 28 are received, to be followed by a public hearing in Colombo on April 4. "We will be giving all stakeholders - domestic users, industrial users and even the media to make their representations. We will decide after the public hearing on April 4," the PUCSL Chief said.

Meanwhile, reacting strongly to the proposed power tariff increase, three frontline business leaders who are also top trade chamber officials, in individual interviews with Sunday Island yesterday, voiced grave concern about the impending power tariff increase.

The Chairman of the Industrial Association of Sri Lanka and Overseas Realty of Ceylon PLC Group CEO Pravir Samarasinghe said: " We feel that the tariff structure is extremely high as it is - perhaps one of the highest rates in the world - and should not be increased.’’

Even hotels and industries, although charged a lower tariff, will find it extremely difficult to face another increase. There are a large percentage of households enjoying a subsidized tariff. Industrialists will find it extremely difficult to absorb the increased costs.

The general purpose category III, being the high electricity consumers will also find that any additional increase will be also unsustainable , Samarasinghe said.

He recommended that government finds a balanced portfolio of power generation which will reduce the cost of generating while and reducing the subsidies granted to some sectors.

He also recommended that the " time- of- the day" tariff structure be made applicable even to the general purpose category users.

Chairman of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka, Sunil Wijesinha, said "Any increase in the power tariffs will have to be passed on to the consumers but the industrial and commercial sectors should not be burdened with any more power tariff increases given the many subsidies given to the other sectors where the tariff rates are lower than the costs – for domestic and social purposes such as street lighting. The costs of such social welfare should not be added as a burden to the industrial and commercial sectors,’’ he said.

"While we laud the government for projects such as the Norochcholai coal plant, what we need is more energy generation through cheaper means like coal power. Increased demand should not be met by temporary solutions, but through long term solutions like coal which costs less than diesel.’’

Wijesinha also said that the PUCSL should play its regulatory role as they are the people who approve these tariff hikes. They should naturally discharge their responsibilities and obligations professionally.

Secretary General of the Ceylon National Chamber of Industries Kumar Kandalama said: " Bulk users such as the ceramic and porcelain industries, which operate on a round- the- clock basis, should be given some relief."

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