Public Utilities Comm. to be dissolved? Power Ministry to present Cabinet paper soon

Ceylon Today

By Niranjala Ariyawansha

Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ranjith Siyambalapitiya is to present a Cabinet Paper next week requesting to dissolve the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) and appoint suitable intellectuals instead, Ceylon Today reliably learns.
According to sources, Ministry Secretary Dr. Suren Batagoda is also preparing to include several negative observations regarding the PUCSL in that particular Cabinet Paper.

He is due to point out that the membership of the PUCSL is not acting professionally and by submitting false figures and statistics in connection with Power Plants, they have misled the public.

They have decided to submit this Cabinet Paper after the PUCSL had last week rejected a Joint Cabinet Paper submitted three weeks ago by Ministers Siyambalapitiya and Dr. Amunugama, saying that a generation mix was required for the energy security of the country.

Simultaneously, this took place within a backdrop where the Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan (LCLTGEP) 2018-2038 which the CEB had submitted to the PUCSL had been set aside.

This Cabinet Paper had emphasized that, similar to all countries in the world, Sri Lanka too, without depending only on one source of energy to fulfil the future energy needs of the country, should use all other sources including coal.

The LCLTGEP prepared by the CEB states that all energy sources including coal had been mentioned. However, the PUCSL had removed the coal power plants and included many Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plants instead, pointing out falsely that Coal was far more expensive than LNG, the CEB Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) has alleged.

In a case filed at the Appeal Court by two others including member of the CEBEU Athula Wanniarachchi it has been requested that an order be issued to the PUCSL that the illegally prepared LCLTGEP be withdrawn.

According to the Sri Lanka Electricity Act, No. 20 of 2009, Clause No. 5 and the Public Utilities Commission Act No. 35 of 2002, Clause No. 30, the Subject Minister should prepare the General Policy Guidelines on the Electricity Industry and submit it to the Cabinet. All amendments submitted for these too should be approved by the Cabinet and it should be laid before Parliament and only then be presented to the PUCSL. According to this policy of the government, the LCLTGEP should be prepared by the CEB.

The role of the PUCSL is to regulate whether the CEB complies with implementing the policy provided by the government or not.

Under these circumstances, what the government has done by referring the generation mix policy document prepared by the two ministers, to the PUCSL requesting them to submit their observations is reversing the legal framework that exists. Professor Kumar David, a veteran energy expert and an electrical engineer warns that the government has yet to realize the danger of the ad-hoc decisions they make in the power and energy sector sans any proper policy and as a result Sri Lanka will have to face a severe energy crisis in the near future.

He also emphasized the fact that the beginning of this was the decision taken by the government, to halt the construction of the Sampur Coal Power Plant made without any foresight.

He further told Ceylon Today that even now, the government has set aside preparing an energy policy and instead it is making stupid decisions based on inaccurate guidance of advisors.

By bring to a standstill the Sampur Coal Power Plant a sum of Rs 220 billion would have to be spent to purchase power from high cost diesel power plants and it is a serious mistake, he added.

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