11/13/2023, 17.12
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With more than half a million accounts closed, many S Lankan families are now in the dark

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

The policy of tariff adjustments has left more than half a million users without electricity. Privileges enjoyed by politicians, like longer credit periods because of higher bills, are very controversial. Accounts are closed after 30 days and a 10-day notice. For the company, everything is in order.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) disconnected a total of 544,488 accounts in the first 10 months of 2023 out of a seven million customer base, this according to a recent report by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Power and Energy.

In the past few months, the authorities have implemented tariff adjustment every six months in accordance with an agreement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce the losses of state-owned enterprises, including the CEB.

Last year, a list of long-overdue utility bills by government institutions and politicians was made public, prompting public outrage at the concessions and favouritism, such as longer credit periods than those of the average consumer.

Due to the rising cost of electricity, which is linked to the general rise in the cost of living, many households are struggling financially and cannot pay their bills. Hence, the company's decision to cut the connections.

More than 8 per cent of Sri Lankans have thus been forced into darkness due to higher electricity bills. Some 94,201 connections were cut at the end of 2021 rising to 247,250 last year.

The lack of electricity affects people’s quality of life and has wider economic implications, for a country already grappling with several challenges, including food insecurity.

Analysts are of the view that “the drastic increase in power disconnections has raised concerns regarding the accessibility as well as affordability of electricity for a significant portion of the population.

“Power disconnections by the CEB has left over half a million Sri Lankans without a crucial utility, thus, emphasising the challenges faced by ordinary citizens in meeting basic energy needs.”

Former CEB engineers Dasun Mayadunne and Amanthi Caldera, currently living in Australia, told AsiaNews that “over the last year, CEB tariffs have been revised three times in order to cover the revenue-expenditure gaps envisaged at each revision.”

The “CEB estimated approximately Rs 288 billion deficits at the prevailing tariff, that was revised with the objective of a 66 per cent revenue increase.

“A tariff reduction of 3.15 per cent was proposed by the CEB during the second half of 2023 to pass on the benefit of cost reductions based on revised budgets to consumers. Yet, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) reduced the tariff by 14.5 per cent instead.”

According to CEB Media Spokesman Noel Priyantha, “disparity resulted due to 18 per cent tariff increase approved on October 20 this year, a result of losses estimated to be around Rs 18 billion resulting from the drought conditions at the time. Yet, this revision was significantly lower than what the CEB had estimated, initially.”

Customers are cut off from the grid after 30 days with a 10-day notice. Criteria vary according to area and customer density, while electricity meters are sealed mainly for non-payment of bills, as prescribed under the Sri Lanka Electricity Act.

The cuts are decided on the basis of the Statement of Rights and Obligations of Electricity Consumers (ROEC) and licensees’ Supply Services Code (SSC).

In addition, the Electricity (Safety, Quality and Continuity) Regulations 2016 (R) allow licensees to disconnect or discontinue supply of electricity to any consumer if they fail “to meet the requirements outlined in the legal framework," Priyantha added.

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See also
Government-owned utility hikes rates by 66 per cent to secure international loans
17/02/2023 19:27
Sri Lanka’s foreign debt crisis leads to shortages in basic necessities
27/01/2022 14:37
Colombo: Buddhist temples turn off lights against hike in utility bills
22/09/2022 11:43
Colombo: international plan launched against food insecurity
25/05/2022 12:05
About one in three households experiences food insecurity in Sri Lanka
03/01/2023 19:00


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