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Everyone for himself or herself in electricity sector



By Eng Parakrama Jayasinghe

Sri Lankans have not forgotten the advice given by one of our former Presidents: “Citizens should look after their own security.”

It appears that the Electricity Consumers are now faced with this choice given the upheavals and shocks received in recent times, with the sword of Damocles of a further hefty tariff hike on the cards. The Minister of Power is expected to present his Cabinet Proposal asking for a further 86% increase on top of the 75% already imposed on the electricity consumer tariff as anew year gift to the nation.

Even with the hope that such most unwarranted price increase may not be allowed, the threat of continued increases cannot be ignored, given the total lack of any visionary approach to this issue for which there are enough and more solutions abound.

However, taking a lesson from past happenings, which led us to this quagmire, it is high time that the consumers accepted the fact that they will have to fend for themselves.

Fortunately, such options are now emerging, commencing from the very basic intervention of the consumers themselves individually, by conservation of energy and more vigilance in the use of the energy consuming equipment. This will provide immediate monetary benefits to the consumers as well as provide a modicum of relief to those less able to engage in such moves, by reducing the overall cost of generation of the CEB and hopefully averting any more ad-hoc tariff increases.

The word DSM- Demand Side Management is bandied about often by the authorities, but very little seems to be done to adopt same. It is an axiom that Nega Watts are much cheaper than Mega Watts . We the consumers can take up the challenge ourselves to help ourselves as well as the country. This is the lowest hanging fruit and will deliver dividends from the day one at practically no cost. Let us look at a few options. (See Figure 1)

The very detailed analysis done by the SLSEA in Kurunegala which I think is equally valid anywhere else in the country, is a good indicator on options available.(See Figure 2)

While opting for a more efficient inverter type refrigerator may not be feasible in these difficult times, even the existing one can be made to be less energy consuming by observing some simple rules. These are readily available in the SLSEA web site and only one illustration is given below to nudge you in the right direction.

Similar care can be taken in case of the use of the TV and Irons, etc. Even the Rice cooker, now an ubiquitous implement in most households, can be made to work energy efficiently.

When it comes to lights, there is no excuse but to convert to LEDS, even if you use CFL bulbs at present. It is reported that some years ago the promotions of CFL bulbs to be replaced with incandescent bulbs resulted in an annual saving of 450 GWh of electricity. Similar results can be expected now even by the change from CFL to LEDs. Of course one may argue that the current market price of LEDs have taken them out of reach of most people. Who can spare nearly Rs 1000.00 for a mere light bulb when you can buy few kilos of rice with that money. However, those who can spare little extra cash would find it a worthwhile investment as shown below. (See Figure 3)

But taken on a national scale the following is worth noting.

In 2018 the CEB made an award for 10,000,000 LED bulbs to a Vietnamese Company at an FOB price of $ 0.872. Nothing is known if this purchase was made and the bulbs duly distributed. If this had been followed up in a logical fashion the impact on the National grid and the CEB would have been significant. (See Figure 4)

Impact of conversion to LEDs from CFLs

 The other relevant question to be asked is, if the price of LED bulbs was only $ 0.872 how come they are being sold at a price of Rs 1,000 in the market? A fair price would have been less than Rs. 500.00 even at the current devalued state of the rupee.

So while we await the state authorities to wake up , let us make our own contribution by changing over to LEDs even at the present black market prices, following the example set with the CFLs

The options available to the corporate sector are also significant as shown below, developed once more thanks to be efforts of the SLSEA. (See Figure 5)

The largest chunk of electricity consumption is by air conditioners. While there are many changes that can be done the cost of which can be recovered in a matter of months, one immediate step that can be done is by increasing the set point . It is often seen that the employees sometimes need be clad in warm clothing in the office , while stepping out to the scorching sun risking heat stroke. It has been proven that just 1 degree increase in the set point temperature of airconditioned spaces could result in a 6% reduction in energy consumption. That would mean a lot of Bucks with the current price of electricity.

While each employee is commited individually to switch off unnecessary fans and lights,etc., they must also collectively treat this as a national service, not merely a means of saving some expense to the employer.

There are many other simple good practices which can be adopted resulting in a significant saving of energy consumption. Details of these can be obtained from the SLSEA and are also published in their web

In this regard the assignment of the task of ensuring a pre-determined saving of consumption to an Energy Manager would be a good idea for any institution.

This is a requirement now for institutions consuming more than 50,000 kWh/month of electricity under the SLSEA regulations to appoint an Energy Manager. Unfortunately the request to the Cabinet to make this mandatory has been turned down in their wisdom. With the recent hike in consumer tariff , even those with lower consumption may find employing an energy manager a prudent investment.

While the above are efforts that can be made by individual and institutional consumers to reduce their consumption, and thereby mitigate the already implemented and impending further tariff hikes, it is also now possible for them to embark on ventures to gain further independence and insulation against the risks of ad hoc tariff increases by the utility and the ministry, to cover up their past sins and the ongoing honeymoon with imported fossil fuels, at the consumers expense, even to the extent of trying to add one more imponderable by way of LNG.

Surya Bala Sangraamaya

The vibrant progress of the SBS until mid 2022, created a most visible impact on the RE contribution amounting to over 650 MW of Roof Top Solar power and PROSUMER base of over 45,000. The saving in oil based electricity generation thereby reached of 71,500 MWh per month and thus a direct reduction of $ 230.6 Million or Rs 85.33 Billion annually from the drain of foreign exchange expenditure on oil based generation. (See Figure 6)

The true potential was not realised, which would have even raised this contribution to over 1,000 MW by now with the comfort of 1,752 GWh per annum added to the national grid, being 12% of the demand, at a constant cost of Rs 19.09 per kWh for the next 20 years. The Utility lacked the foresight to profit from that bounty.

But as it may, the financial parameters changed drastically in 2022 making it impossible for any investor to enter the industry at the former feed in tariff. The deliberations of the Tariff Committee over many months came out with a damp squib offering only Rs 37.00 per kWh for units up to 500 kW and even less at Rs 34.50 per kWh for larger systems, which the members of the Committee was well aware are not adequate to attract the required investments. On a more positive note the Utility did remove some technical barriers and also publicly announced the feasibility of absorbing up to ,2500 MW of Solar and Wind power to the grid without the need for major investments on the transmission system. This was a welcome attitude change which failed to garner the desired result due to the external influences which resulted in the declaration of the non viable Feed in Tariff. This is particularly so for the larger systems which are urgently needed to overcome the present financial and energy supply crisis by addition of large amounts of Solar PV in a short time at no expense to the CEB or the state.

Near 50% of the 650 MW of Solar PV penetration came from Net Plus accounts which were relatively larger systems adding directly to reduce the burden on the Grid. This has now come to a stand still due to the failure to provide a commercially viable FIT offered for the larger systems. And thus dried up a possible source of foreign investments to a sector which could have offered immediate short term solution to the current crisis

However, the provisions of the SBS , even at the declared FIT of Rs 37.00 may prove acceptable to some larger individual and commercial customers, when considered in relation to the already increased tariff.

A sample calculation based on the two systems Net Metering and Net Accounting are given below. (See Figures 7 and 8)

Both systems assume debt funding up to 50% over a seven-year payback and a concessionary interest rate of 15%. While this may appear fanciful in comparison of the insane market interest rate of over 30%, some banks have come forward to commit some limited funds at such rates in the interest of the national need.

But the Net Accounting option appears attractive even if more equity funds are committed, as there is a healthy return for such commitment. Fortunately for Sri Lanka there had been such individuals who did not purely go by the possible financial returns on the funds committed when the roof top Solar PV system was initiated without any concessionary debt funding from ADB etc., and even before the launching of the SBS. It is due to their generosity that the industry was able to survive and thrive for the great benefit to the country. One could only hope that there would be even more of such people who could spare a million or two in a truly a national venture as shown by both the personal returns and the even greater contribution to the grid. This number which cannot be refuted would answer the type of objections that could come from the CEB that this would wean away their high-end customers. Obviously, their gain would far exceed such reduction in income by eliminating the need for oil-based generation. Hope they could appreciate this and would not try to pose any barriers on those who are willing to come to their assistance, instead of the proposed Ad Hoc tariff increases as the only means of survival.

The main driving force behind this widow of opportunity is of course the current average cost of electricity for the high-end consumers as seen below. (See figure 9)

If the proposed additional tariff increase is imposed it will further drive the high-end consumers away from the grid, as their seeking none dependence from the grid with the added advantage of security against extended power cuts, by the addition of some batteries. The above two systems do not give them this protection against the power cuts, which will be here to stay for a while, in spite of the rhetoric of the Minister and the CEB officials. The costs of this option is not prohibitive as the CEB engineers continue portray. This option will be examined in detail in a later article. In the meanwhile, those interested can contact the author for discussions. My colleagues at the Solar Industries Association will also be pleased to assist you to evaluate the options available.

You are on your own

As a popular Sinhala saying goes, ‘the only shade to be expected for your head comes from your own hand’. This certainly appears true in the case of the Electricity Sector in Sri Lanka.

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It’s the economy, again



There is a report in the Lankadeepa of 30 September, 2023 that thousands (‘dahas ganang’) of university graduates in biotechnology (and engineering technology) languish without employment. There is a comment that even if all of them were employed as teachers in state schools (in fact, there is no money to do so), the pool of unemployed graduates in biotechnology, which is filled yearly,

would not dry up; not dissimilarly (the reporter comments) from the fate of graduates in Arts. That graduates in biotechnology are unemployable in this economy as graduates in Arts are, validates a position that I have repeatedly brought up in these pages: university graduates and other young people are unemployed in this economy because this economy is arid and sterile and not because the education system, at whatever level, is fundamentally flawed.

The moment they land in a vigorously growing economy, they become the output of an excellent education system. Not that the education system (school and university) cannot be improved: Cambridge University has improved since 1215; Harvard University continues to improve since 1635. China (Mainland and Taiwan), Malaysia and many other economies did not await reforms in their education systems to grow rapidly as during the last several decades. It is a bit like the truism about savings and investment in the total economy: you don’t have to save to invest; if you invest savings will accommodate investment. It might be apt to say, ‘it is the economy stupid’.

The report in the Lankadipa highlighted that it was Dr. Bandula Gunawardhena, who, when he was the Minister of Education in 2012, with great enthusiasm, installed these branches of learning in schools and universities. And, he earned a Ph.D. degree in Economics!

Our erudite president of the republic, who goes around the world from one conference to another, preaching to the rest of the world, shows great enthusiasm about digitizing this economy. He is falling into the same trap as Dr. Gunewardhena fell into. You digitize a growing economy, not a moribund and bankrupt one.

It is the economy, again.


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Tribute to Dr. Nilanthi Cooray



I have known Dr. Nilanthi for more than 40 years since her marriage to my cousin Frank.Dr. Nilanthi was born in Moratuwa to a middle-class Catholic family. Her siblings include an older sister and a younger brother, and all three of them were studious. Her parents, especially her father. was a devout Catholic who was a frequent visitor to St. Sebastian’s church in Moratuwa.

Up to grade eight, Nilanthi attended Our Lady of Victories Convent in Moratuwa and then joined the Holy Family Convent in Bambalapitiya. She was accepted to the Medical College in 1972 after her successful results at the A-levels. She traveled daily from Moratuwa to the Medical college until such time she was able to get a place at the medical college hostel. During her final years at the medical college hostel, she succeeded in her studies and graduated as a doctor in 1976.

Her career began as an intern at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital Colombo for six months and another six months at the Castle Street Hospital, Borella working with leading qualified senior doctors. In 1977, she got married to her lifelong friend, Frank Cooray, who was working as a Technical Officer in the Irrigation Department. Her first appointment as a fully-fledged MBBS doctor was at the Narammala Base Hospital. Thereafter she got a transfer to the Lunawa Hospital.

After serving the required number of compulsory years (five or six years) she gave up the government job and started her own private practice. This decision seemed a calculated risk as at that time Moratuwa had enough and more reputed and recognized senior doctors such as Dr. Festus Fernando, Dr. Winston Perera, Dr. Cramer, Dr. Muthukumaru, Dr. Keerthisinghe, Dr. Guy de Silva and so on. However, within a short span of time, Nilanthi was able to establish herself as a remarkable young doctor and by the time the senior doctors retired or left Moratuwa, she had become one of the highly recognized doctors in Moratuwa with diagnostic excellence.

The demands of work and the up bringing of two little daughters made it difficult for Nilanthi to cope with everyday life. To support her, her husband gave up his job and went on voluntarily retirement after serving for 18 years at the Irrigation Department. He was just short of two years to qualify for the government pension.

In her prime of life Nilanthi was diagnosed for cancer. More time was spent in rest and prayers. Nilanthi and Frank would have prayed to God and all saints for a miracle healing. This was proved, when she went to Lourdes in France, a place known for Marian worship, to fulfill a vow, after receiving the good news from Dr. S. R. Jayatilleke, who was her oncologist, that her cancer has disappeared. This was the first thing she wanted to upon receiving the miracle healing. She got the green light from the doctor to fly. After her cancer Nilanthi slowed down in her practice and limited the number of patients per day.

Nilanthi was never interested in having a luxurious life or extra comforts like luxury cars or overseas holidays. Her life was centered around her family and her medical profession. She was a loving wife to her husband and devoted mother to her two daughters. As time passed, spending time with her four grandchildren brought her great happiness.

Only after her death that most of the people came to know about her charitable acts of kindness and in treating the poor without charging a fee. During her funeral service, a priest who gave the homily mentioned how students and staff of St. Sebastian’s College Moratuwa benefited by her treatment during their illnesses.

It was only a matter of telling her husband who was now attached to the staff at the College and he made arrangements for them to consult Dr. Nilanthi on a priority line. There was no difference between a priest, staff member, minor staff or a student (of course the student had to wear the uniform to identify their school), all were treated free of charge.

Attending the funeral service were several priests (including Bishop Anthony who was a past Rector of the College) and Christian brothers who served the college. I am certain that they came not only to pay their last respects but also to express their gratitude for taking care of them during their time of illnesses.

In the latter part of her life, her health deteriorated and with the help of her domestic aid, she had chosen a saree and a blouse for her final journey, which she did not disclose to her family members. However, when Frank came to know about it, he was upset and he had asked Nilanthi what this is all about. But she had not given any answer to that.

However, taking that opportunity she had given one more instruction to Frank, and that is after she is gone to give the gold chain round her neck to the domestic aid. For her final journey she was dressed with that particular saree and when everything was over the gold chain was given to the domestic aid.

She leaves so many special memories and a legacy of love. May her soul rest in peace.

-Ralph Gunawardena-

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Full implementation of 13A: Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state? – Part IV



By Kalyananda Tiranagama
Executive Director

Lawyers for Human Rights and Development

(Part III of this article appeared in The Island yesterday (28 Sept. 2023)

President Jayewardene stands up against Ranil Wickremesinghe

President J. R. Jayewardene, on the occasion of the Opening of Parliament on 20 Feb., 1986 said: ‘‘Permit me to speak on the government’s attempts since 1977 to seek a political solution to the problems arising in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

‘‘Our first attempt to do so was outlined in the UNP Election Manifesto of 1977. These proposals were prepared in consultation with some of the TULF MPs at that time. I have in my Address to Hon. Members on 23rd February 1984 outlined the steps taken to implement them as follows:

‘‘Since 1977 the government has made Tamil a National Language in the Constitution; amended rules governing entrance to universities and removed any racial bias governing those rules; removed the regulations prescribing racial considerations governing entry to the Public Services and promotion in the services.

‘‘District Councils have been created and District Ministers appointed. The TULF accepted them and worked for them for two years and contested elections. Last year they withdrew from them as sufficient powers and finance had not been allotted to them.

‘‘The search for a political solution was the profound concern of the government of SL. It was this commitment to reach a peaceful solution to the problem that led SL to take the unprecedented step on the part of any Sovereign State of sending her accredited representatives to explore the possibility of reaching a settlement at two Conferences held in Thimpu, Bhutan in August 1985 … arranged with the Tamil groups through the good offices of India.

‘‘However, neither the TULF nor the groups who attended these talks showed any serious inclination to discuss any of the proposals placed before them by the Govt. of SL. Their final response was an outright rejection of the government proposals and an invitation to the Govt. of SL to make new proposals that would accord with the so-called cardinal principles which they enunciated, which were no more than a re-statement of the demand for Eelam.

‘‘On 12th July 1985 the 6 Tamil groups made a statement of the ‘Four Principles’ on which they were working. On 13th August 1985 the leader of the SL Delegation, Dr. H.W. Jayewardene responded to it with a statement on the ‘Four Principles’ mentioned by the Tamil groups.

‘‘He dealt with the (i) recognition of the Tamils as a distinct nationality, (ii) a separate homeland and (iii) self-determination for the Tamils; and (iv) the linkage of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a reaffirmation of the demand for a separate state and could not be the subject of discussion and acceptance by the SL govt.

‘‘The SL delegation also submitted an outline of the structure of the sub-national units of a Participatory System of Governance on 16th August, but this too was not considered by the Tamil groups though it indicated areas on which discussion and agreement were possible.

‘‘The Accord reached in Thimpu and New Delhi were to be the basis of any future discussions. Such discussion would not reopen the Four Principles mentioned earlier in any form whatsoever. This was the basis of the understanding of both the Govts of India and Sri Lanka ….

There are certain principles which we cannot depart from arriving at a solution. We cannot barter away the unity of Sri Lanka, its democratic institutions, the right of every citizen in this country whatever his race, religion, or caste to consider the whole Island as his Homeland, enjoying equal rights, constitutionally, politically, socially, in education and employment are equally inviolable.”

“At present the Sri Lanka Tamils are in a minority in the Eastern Province while the Sinhalese and the Muslims together constitute nearly sixty per cent of the population. Since the Sri Lanka Tamils constitute more than ninety per cent of the population in the Northern Province, the object of the amalgamation of the North and the East is clear – the Sri Lanka Tamils will after amalgamation become the majority group in the combined unit of administration. Once the amalgamation is achieved the concept of the traditional homeland of the Tamils which has been a corner-stone of agitation in the post-independence period will be revived as this is the only ground on which the T.U.L.F.

denies the legitimate rights of the Sinhala people to become settlers in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Nor does the traditional homelands theory recognise any rights for the Muslims either except as an attenuated minority in the amalgamated territory. So, on the one hand while professing to urge the case for all Tamil speaking people in fact the T.U.L.F. is covertly seeking to secure the extensive areas for development, especially under the accelerated Mahaweli Program, for exploitation by the Sri Lankan Tamils alone. This in short is the duplicitous motivation behind the demand for amalgamation.

‘’ Quite candidly, the Sinhala people do not regard the demand for the amalgamation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a bona fide claim but as one motivated by an ulterior purpose, namely, as a first step towards the creation of a separate state comprising these two Provinces. The recent outrages by Tamil terrorists against the Sinhala civilian population settled in the North and East killing vast numbers of them, ravaging their homesteads and making thousands of them refugees in their own land has only made their apprehensions seem more real than ever before.

Even the most naive of people could not expect a single Sinhalese to go back to the North and/or East if the maintenance of law and order within those areas becomes the exclusive preserve of the political leaders and patrons of the very terrorists who chased them out. Could one for instance expect the survivors of Namalwatta to go back to their village if the leader of the Tamil Terrorist gang that murdered their families is the A S.P. of the area? Not only would those poor refugees not go back but those Sinhalese, including those in Ampara and Trincomalee, who are still living in the North and East, would necessarily leave their lands and flee to the South, if these proposals are implemented.”

These proposals are totally unacceptable. If they are implemented, the T. U. L. F. would have all but attained Eelam. It need hardly be said that even if the demand for a Tamil Linguistic State is granted, further problems and conflicts are bound to arise between that Tamil Linguistic State of the North and East and the Centre. Water, hydropower and the apportioning of funds are some of the areas in which conflicts could arise. A cause or pretext for a conflict on which to base a unilateral declaration of independence could easily be found.

There can be little doubt that what T.U.L.F. seeks to achieve by its demands is the necessary infrastructure for a State of Eelam, after which a final putsch could be made for the creation of a State of Eelam, comprising not only of the North and East, but of at least the hill country and the NCP as well.” (quoted in the Judgement of Wanasundara J in the 13th Amendment Case, Pp. 377 – 379)

With all our criticism of JR for the harmful consequences the country had to face with his open economy and executive presidency introduced after 1977, from the above statement it clearly appears that JR was not a traitor to this country, but a patriot who had some genuine concern for the country and its people. He had the wisdom to see through the danger posed to the very existence of this country as a unitary state by giving into unreasonable and crafty demands of the Tamil political leaders in the North-East.

President Jayewardene not only refused to accept these proposals of the TULF and other Tamil groups; he was not even prepared to discuss them. His firm response was that they are totally unacceptable.

(To be continued)

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