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This electricity tariff hike is not legal



The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has for the third time in 14 months approved an electricity tariff hike by 18%, effective from 20 October. Whatever calculations and reasons the CEB and the PUCSL provide in justifying this third tariff hike, are only in relation to cost which means CEB expenses, never given in detail. For the consumer, my rough calculations show a cumulative increase in tariff of around 300% since August 2022, with one increase topping the other. The first in 2022 August being 75%, the next in 2023 February being 65% on the tariff increased by 75% and now 18% over the previous increase. PUCSL would justify this 18% increase by saying they did not allow the 22% increase the CEB wanted.  

My question is, “how legal are these increases that only consider unexplained CEB costs and not the consumer?” Does the Act that established the PUCSL with a mandate to decide tariff revisions requested by State owned public utility agencies, allow the PUCSL to decide on tariff revisions with the consumer wholly ignored? The PUCSL Act No. 35 of 2002 ( in detailing “Objectives, Powers and Functions” of the Commission in Part IV lays down in Section 14(2) the Commission shall act in a manner as best calculated to (a) protect the interests of all consumers (c) promote efficiency in both the operations of and capital investment in public utilities (d) promote efficient allocation of resources and also (e) promote safety and service quality.

Let’s look into the provision of “protecting consumer interests”. Has the PUCSL protected, leave alone “promote the interest of all consumers” in deciding tariff increases during the past 14 months? What in fact are the fundamental interests of the consumer? First and foremost, it is affordability in the context of “living cost”. Next is the impact increases would have on his/her and family living costs. Also most importantly, its impact on his/her livelihood; self-employment or otherwise.

None of those aspects that affect the consumer has ever been considered. Massive tariff increases have been allowed without any attention paid at least to the UNESCO Report on Sri Lanka – 2022 that highlights “More than 5.7 million people, including 2.3 million children, require humanitarian assistance. Sri Lanka is among the top ten countries with the highest number of malnourished children and the numbers are expected to rise further.” Numbers are increasing with reported factory closures, throwing out thousands of employees from work.

According to the Census and Statistics Dept. “Labour Force Survey Quarterly Report – 2023 Q1” during the first quarter of this year 252,480 had lost employment compared to employment in the 2022 First Quarter. Top apparel manufacturers complain of excessive cost of production due to electricity tariff increases that make securing new orders difficult with other countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam offering cheaper rates.

The PUCSL cannot be ignorant of these socio economic issues the people are burdened with, to stick to CEB quoted expenditure estimates only. Since August 2022 three successive tariff increases approved on CEB requests to cover their costs, prove the PUCSL is violating its legally mandated social responsibility of “protecting the interests of all consumers”. If they did have any concerns for millions of people struggling to make ends meet in the worst economic crisis this country is crawling through and if they abided by their mandate to protect the interests of all consumers, they should have first and seriously looked into possibilities of “reducing CEB costs” instead of further increasing tariff for the third time.

Squaring off cost and income is not about merely increasing tariff, but is also about improving efficiency of service delivery and reducing cost. In all three occasions within the past 14 months when electricity tariff was increased, there was no attention and interest paid to improving efficiency and reducing CEB costs that includes incalculable waste, mega corruption, and callous inefficiency on the part of the CEB management the PUCSL has to take total responsibility for.

How can the PUCSL ever speak of “promoting efficiency” with trillions of rupees of uncollected consumer bills of politicians and businessmen left completely ignored? How can the PUCSL account for maintaining thousands as excess staff even the Minister of Power and Energy accepts there is, allow massive monthly overtime payments despite maintaining excess staff and also ignore outsourcing CEB services to private companies for undeclared fees and still approve tariff increases? That again violates their mandate to (c) promote efficiency in both the operations of and capital investment in public utilities and (d) promote efficient allocation of resources under Section 14(2) of the Act.  

All these conscious violations of their mandate as provided for in the Act are being covered with requests for “Stakeholder consultation on the proposed 03rd electricity tariff revision 2023″. Oral submissions accordingly were fixed for 18 October 2023. The advertisement said from 4 to 18 October, written submissions would be accepted too. No one knows how many have submitted written proposals and suggestions and what they are.

I am still not told what they did with my proposals sent in on 4 October, except for the acknowledgement received. What I am expected to understand from their non-commitment on my requests is, the PUCSL in no way is willing to provide details of the CEB expenditure that would expose mega corruption, waste, inefficiency and undue privileges enjoyed by the top management and their wheeler dealers that are billed to the consumer as costs to be covered by tariff increases.  

Thus, the decision to increase tariff by 18% was taken by PUCSL the day after oral presentations were accepted on 18 October. That again was a farce of a “stakeholder consultation” with those who were registered for oral presentation provided 10 minutes with no comments, queries and discussions allowed nor the PUCSL high command showing any interest in them. This was organised to show they were adhering to Section 17(b) that says the PUCSL shall “consult, to the extent the Commission considers appropriate, any person or group who or which may be affected, or likely to be affected, by the decisions of the Commission.”

In Sri Lanka no public consultation is practically possible without necessary documents provided in Sinhala and Tamil languages. With PUCSL, “relevant documents” for stakeholder consultations were made available “only” in English language, posted in their official website violating the Constitution that decides Sinhala and Tamil languages as the two official languages any State agency should communicate with. Thus, in no way was this a “public consultation”. It was only collecting proposals and suggestions, to leave on record the public was consulted.

 Once again, the PUCSL Act was violated in many ways. The Act says, proceedings of public hearing shall be open to the public. This single day “hearing” was not. The Act says, “The minutes, including a record of the evidence given and a statement of all facts taken into consideration” in making a decision should be made public. But the decision to increase tariff was announced the following day, with no “minutes, including a record of the evidence given (submissions in this case) and a statement of all facts” ever made public.

It is anyone’s guess the decision to increase tariff from 20 October was pre-decided as directed by the Cabinet of Ministers. The letter PUCSL addressed to the Director General, CEB on 28 September, quotes the office of Cabinet of ministers as having “conveyed the decision of the Cabinet to the PUCSL, among other things, to; (i) urgently consider the submission by CEB based on the cost reflective tariff methodology and (ii) advance tariff revision scheduled for January 2024 to October 2023 to recover all costs.” This in fact was what the PUCSL did.

Summing up all the above, the PUCSL has violated the Constitution by refraining to provide necessary official documents in the two official languages Sinhala and Tamil, violated its own Act by ignoring the mandate to “promote interests of all consumers”, violated the provisions to make all minutes, statements and all other relevant information public and has also made a mockery of the announced stakeholder consultation, by refusing to engage even with the extremely limited stakeholder participants and open consultations for social dialogue and public engagement.  

It is therefore my concerned assumption that this decision by the PUCSL to approve the tariff increase of 18% from 20 July as with all previous increases are illegal and the CEB therefore has no legal binding to implement any increase henceforth. By default, I say the consumers also have a moral and a legitimate right to demand PUCSL withdraw their decision on this tariff hike.

– Kusal Perera



Why elections for Presidency all political parties have promised to abolish?




President Ranil Wickremesinghe is reported to have told the cabinet of ministers, priority has to be given to the IMF program to ensure economic stability and elections will have to be postponed till the IMF program is concluded. One newspaper report had it, the President had in fact informed the Election Commission too about postponing elections.

Postponing elections being a far cry, there is now a new debate mainly in Colombo circles, whether Basil’s request for a parliamentary election should precede the constitutionally scheduled Presidential election, or not. President Wickremesinghe is said to have told Basil then, it would be the Presidential election that would be held according to Constitutional provisions, but, if MPs need a parliamentary election sooner, they should have a resolution adopted in Parliament to that effect. This only needs a simple majority. With Mahinda Rajapaksa also endorsing the proposal for a parliamentary election first, Basil no doubt has the political clout to get the SLPP to move a motion in Parliament for a parliamentary election and have it passed. Yet they know, with no presidential candidate of their own, their future electoral politics will be a compromise with Wickremesinghe and they have to maintain space for a consensual path.

The main Opposition in Parliament, the SJB, has no intention in supporting Basil’s proposal for a parliamentary election before the presidential election, they have said. They are clear they want the Presidential election first. The JVP/NPP leadership is seriously in for a Presidential election. They are campaigning for the Presidential election with Anura Kumara as the candidate whom they believe has already won the election. All in all, Colombo seem to want a Presidential election for a “complete change” carrying the same rhetoric the “aragalaya” left as political chaos.

Sri Lanka does need a “change”
Fact remains, Sri Lanka does need a “change”. Not just a “complete change” but a huge change with a wholly new Constitution including the overhaul of the entire State apparatus and politics of governance right down to Local Government bodies. That change is not possible with an election for the Executive Presidency. That needs a new parliament, the legislative body for legislating the total change the people need. A change that begins with the abolition of the “Executive” Presidency, and transferring “executive power” back to Parliament.

Abolition of the “Executive” Presidency is a promise, a pledge given to people by all political parties at different elections during the past 30 years. It was the JVP that first demanded the abolition of the executive presidency at the October Presidential elections in 1994. After a bloody ruthless insurgency that was wiped out with equal brutality by State forces in late 1989, scattered remnants of the JVP regrouped and came to open politics at the 1994 August parliamentary elections contesting all districts except Jaffna, Vanni and Batticaloa in collaboration with Ariya Bulegoda’s Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPF). They polled a mere 01.1 percent though the new leadership it was said, expected a total poll of 5% plus in few districts to be above the cut-off mark. JVP had only Nihal Galappaththi elected as their MP from Hambantota district, who was nominated as their presidential candidate at the 1994 October Presidential election.

After the parliamentary elections they realised, they would not poll even the 01.1% at a presidential election and thus made a compromise with the People’s Alliance (PA) presidential candidate Chandrika Kumaratunge (CBK) who was tipped to win the Presidential election. Negotiated through Minister Mangala Samaraweera, a very close personal ally of CBK, the JVP request of abolishing the Executive Presidency within six months from swearing in as president was conceded in writing and the JVP withdrew their candidate in support of CBK.  

Interestingly, then “The Hindu” correspondent in Colombo met former President Jayewardene, the architect of the Executive Presidency and asked him “Sir, you said this executive presidency is so powerful, it cannot only change the gender. PA candidate Chandrika has promised to abolish it. What have you to say on that?” After his usual haughty laugh, Jayewardene had told him “Meet me after it is abolished. I will then tell you”.

No political leader would abolish such power

Jayewardene was certain no political leader would abolish such power in presidency with legal immunity, they are eager to sit with. Since 1994 October, in almost all elections political leaders tried to outmanoeuvre each other by promising total abolition, immediate abolition and even using the election to have the mandate to abolish the executive presidency calling it the sole reason for all evils in the country including mega corruption. We thus had all political parties that usually gain representation in Parliament agreeing to abolish the dangerously authoritative presidency, but none serious about it once elected. The JVP backed presidential candidates from Mahinda Rajapaksa in November 2005 to Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015, guaranteed the presidency would be abolished as the first most important task when elected. It was in fact the JVP who were vociferous about abolishing the presidency in those election campaigns.

What is politically a clear fraud now with JVP is, driving a heavily funded campaign to have their JVP/NPP candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) elected to that same ruthlessly dictatorial executive presidency they condemned and wanted abolished over the past 30 years as the sole reason for mega corruption. They now remain stony silent on abolishing of the presidency. What is more disgracefully hollow is the political narrative they ride on, claiming they would “use the power the People would vest with them in electing AKD as president to create a society with dignity and equality to all”.

Sri Lanka is certainly at crossroads

Sri Lanka is certainly at crossroads and helplessly so. None in mainstream politics would lead this country on a right path to freedom, democracy and an inclusive society with socio-economic and cultural development. These political leaderships simply have no valid “development program” to back their criticism of the past and the present and their request for political power at the next “presidential” election. A larger crisis therefore is the timidity of the educated urban polity that has access to new information, new knowledge and new social discourses beyond geographical boundaries. They need to accept they have a social responsibility in intervening to create a realistic valid social dialogue and to pressure Governments to stay course. Almost a total lack of their independent intervention in social dialogue has allowed political parties with their own sectarian agendas, possibly with laundered black money to manipulate media, especially social media to dominate social thinking in urban circles. What this country immediately needs therefore is an alternative, realistic intervention in deciding how a new and an effective change could be achieved. First it is about creating a social lobby that would independently engage and address the people. Next is about establishing a Government that would be held responsible for the change needed. Thereafter it is about holding that Government responsible for the change and in implementing reforms necessary at every step of the way, without going into the usual selfish life and waking up yet again when elections are called for.

It is therefore not about electing a president once again to the post that had been condemned, had been socially accepted as dictatorial and therefore promised to be abolished, transferring executive power back to Parliament. It is not the president who could abolish the presidency. It is not the president who could legislate reforms necessary. It is not the president who could allocate public funds for social necessities. All that needs a government in parliament with an active social lobby to hold the elected government responsible to the people. Thus, we at crossroads need a new political phenomenon with people deciding on elections, the next Government and most importantly holding that Government responsible in delivery, with the more advantaged urban polity leading the way. Well, they have to accept their social responsibility is far heavier than what they would like to accept. 

– Kusal Perera

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2024 Boao Forum: Accelerating net-zero transition in Asia




The Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference is held in Qionghai, China's Hainan Province, March 26, 2024. /CFP

The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference is being held in Boao, China’s southern province of Hainan from March 26 to 29. Its focus will be “Asia and the World: Common Challenges, Shared Responsibilities.” BFA Secretary General Li Baodong said this year’s BFA Annual Forum will focus on how the international community can work together to address challenges in the areas of four major topics: the global economy, social development, international cooperation and scientific and technological innovation.

National leaders, governmental officials, heads of international organizations, businesspeople, experts in various fields and the press will be invited from at least the 29 member countries of the BFA, which consists of most Asian countries.  

The first BFA meeting was held in Boao in February 2001. Now, it is a unique opportunity for Asian countries to review and discuss common problems and develop common action plans and policies.

On March 18, a launching ceremony was held in Boao for the “Boao Nearly Zero Carbon Demonstration Zone” by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the Hainan provincial government. 

The project aims to showcase China’s green and low-carbon technologies and practices to the world in a demonstration zone focusing on “almost zero” emissions technologies, such as photovoltaics, wind energy collectors, energy storage systems, and an organic waste treatment project.

Located within this demonstration zone are the renovated BFA International Conference Center, a press center and a hotel all of which showcase low-carbon energy technologies. These renovations and demonstrations at the BFA conference facilities should establish the context for many of the sessions in this year’s BFA Forum. They should also set a shining example of the potential innovative technologies for a low-carbon world.

This year’s preliminary conference agenda for the four days of meetings includes numerous general discussions concerning the common issues and current trends facing the BFA member countries. In terms of the net-zero transformation of Asia’s energy systems towards zero-carbon power, there are also a number of sessions.  

According to the International Energy Agency’s forecast, Asia will consume half of the world’s electricity by 2025, and as early as 2021, Asia’s carbon emissions accounted for half of the global emissions. Thus, Asia plays a key role in the transition to a low-carbon world. These BFA sessions will examine these potential transformations in Asia to grow the economy while at the same time reducing carbon emissions.

The transformation of low-carbon technologies will be highlighted in a number of  technology innovation sessions, including “Accelerating Transition towards Zero-Carbon Power” on March 26, “Sustainability Disclosure, the New Normal” on March 27, “Green Development: Inspiring a Shared Future for Urban and Rural Communities” on March 28, and so on.

Clearly, the innovative energy transformation will be a significant part of the BFA final press conference, any resulting recommendations and actions, and any resulting reports. Accelerating the net-zero transformation of Asia’s power system is of great significance to the global response to climate change and the realization of green development worldwide.

BFA will help lead national governments, intergovernmental organizations as well as the private sector in Asia as they work together to promote the energy revolution and strengthen cooperation in all aspects of this very important transformation.  

  • – Robert B. Weisenmiller
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  • Robert B. Weisenmiller, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a research affiliate at the California-China Climate Institute, University of California, Berkeley, and a former chair of the California Energy Commission. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN

(This story, originally published by CGTN has not been edited by SLM staff)

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Backlash builds against Sri Lanka’s $3 Billion clean energy push 




Utility scale wind, solar and battery projects draw CEB’s ire as they march to take away their vested interests.

The government has ignited a green energy investment spree that’s expected to reach as high as $ 3 billion over the next 3 years. The road to bringing this money in the economy, though, is increasingly hitting speed bumps from the likes of the so called ‘mafia’ CEB officials. 

Country’s ambitious vision aims to make the nation’s electric grid greener with 70% of the electricity demand to be met through renewable energy by 2030. 

Companies have already announced plans for committing $25 billion investment up to 2030 in the renewable energy sector in the Country, according to the Board of Investment. 

With potential Private investments over the next 3-4 years through FDI could include $3 billion in utility scale wind, solar and battery storage projects – Sun Power leading with $1.5 billion, followed by Adani Green with $900 million, by Orbital energy with $200 million, by WindForce PLC with $150 million and balance by a consortium of private developers. However, the opposition to projects has mounted for myriad reasons. 

Increasingly, the few so called ‘mafia’ CEB officials, who have strangled the Country’s power sector by delaying the approval process, seems to be more concerned that the rapidly expanding utility scale size of wind, solar and battery projects will irreparably alter their powers and thus their vested interests in earning a share out of the pie. 

Despite this backlash, many projects will eventually get built, say developers and analysts, but they could take longer and cost more than expected. 

At the government level, there is ample support for speeding up the implementation of the projects, but its only CEB who is pushing back on their own self-motivated agenda, not know at large.

– Harendra Kuruppu

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