When the Ceylon Electricity Board was established in 1970 the total power output was 265 Megawatts. This comprised of 192 Megawatts from Hydro power and 73 Megawatts from thermal power. During this time there were only 70,644 consumers. The cost of generating one unit of electricity was cents 9 and distributed among the consumers at cents 15 a unit.
In this manner the Ceylon Electricity Board continued to serve the public during a period of twenty five years making profits while functioning smoothly. However things changed in 1996 when a lengthy power shortage emerged. Even the clocks were turned back by one hour in attempts to find a solution. The public witnessed an extension of working hours by one hour during this period.
At present the daily requirement of electricity is in the region of 36-37 Gigawatt hours. Our sources of power are Hydro power, Diesel power, Coal power, Wind power and solar power. These are fully and partly owned by the CEB and the private sector. There are mini hydro power stations and large scale Solar and wind power plants owned by the private sector.
When the CEB is generating power from 18 large reservoirs, it is amazing to note that the private sector is providing power out of 181 mini hydro projects. From these mini hydro power projects alone 360 Megawatts are added to the national grid. The situation with regard to the thermal power is that Norochcholai generates 35-40 percent of power. Kelanitissa, Sapugaskanda and Chunnakam are other thermal plants belonging to the CEB.
S . Matara, Asia Power, West Cone, A S Embilipitiya, Agrico Hambantota, Galle, Pallekele belonging to the private sector too contribute significantly to the power requirement of the country.
Wind Power Plants and Solar Panel Plants
By May 23rd 349 Mega Watt hours had been added to the national grid while 153 Mega Watt hours of power had been added to the national grid from the Solar Panels daily. There also exist islandwide wind power plants as well as domestic solar panels belonging to the state and private sector. Presently 50 Mega Watts of power are generated from wind power plants. Ten Mega Watts each from Vavuniya, and Welikanda and 50 Mega Watts from Hambantota are added to the national grid. There are plans in the near future to launch 06 projects to establish wind power plants in 20 identified stations that have the potential to generate 1 to 60 Mega Watts of power. In addition it is expected to generate 90 Mega Watts of power from 17 locations. Tenders had been called to implement them.
Houses located in difficult areas, which don’t have access to power generated from the national grid, and isolated villages located on mountain peaks are provided with power from Solar Panels. Some have made these panels by themselves and others have fixed large solar panels in their houses. The CEB purchases one unit from these sources at Rs 22 during the first seven years. The value of the panel is repaid within the first seven years.
Thereafter a unit is purchased at a price between Rs 8-15. The national grid is composed in the following manner
The cost of a unit of electricity
The formula followed by the CEB when purchasing one unit of power.This data proves that producing electricity is at its lowest when Hydro Power is used. Experts in the subject say that from the Inginiyagala Hydro Power Plant, power could be purchased at around six cents a unit. The national grid obtains about 53- 54 percent of its power requirements from hydro power. Economically this is followed by coal power.
This country also occupies a formidable position among countries that use diesel. It is also worthy to note that exactly half of the requirements of the national grid is obtained by extinguishing fossils of Diesel and Coal.
A CEB spokesperson said that sometimes 10%of the requirements are obtained from diesel and 40% from coal. There are variables during the times when water is available. The use of hydro power increases during the dry season when power is obtained from diesel power plants. Given that the price of diesel has risen it is not far away when the customer will be burdened with the weight of this cost.
How electricity is obtained by the National grid
Giga Watt Hours Mega Watts. The issues begin from here. At present hydro power generation is at optimum levels. The Mahaweli River tops the list as the river which generates the most electricity. River Kelani has become the river that has the most number of power plants. Environmentalists claim that the country cannot bear to have so many power plants on its rivers. While blaming the diesel plants and Coal power plants they continue to use the power generated from these sources.
According to them there exists a mafia in which CEB electrical engineers are involved
The Conspiracy within the CEB
The engineers of the CEB charge that the Government isn’t removing corrupt officials and businessmen of the Public Utilities Commission and is not allowing it to run as an independent institution. They also state that there are conspiracies within the CEB in casting aside a power generation plan drawn up by experts in the field and instead are working in support of a scheme that’ll nourish the owners of private power plants.
The civil activists who represent the rights of the electricity consumers are of the opinion that a certain group is working hand in glove with some owners of diesel power plants and are hellbent on the removal of the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission and working towards sweeping under the carpet the much anticipated long drawn power generation plan.
There are other civil organizations representing the CEB which claim that the majority in the CEB are depending on money and they value the institute more than a gold mine.
The workers of the Oil Corporation too share the CEB’s view. According to them there exists a mafia in which CEB electrical engineers are involved. The country’s total production and development rests on their shoulders. Therefore it is their view that the Electrical Engineers also have the ability to control those in high posts in the Government.
However judging by the allegations levelled at each other it proves that a mafia exists. We live in an era where electricity is an essential need of every individual and its demand is increasing two fold every ten years. Therefore it isn’t surprising that different types of mafia and conspiracies relating to electricity that exist are deep-rooted.
These mafias as Diesel mafia, Coal mafia and mini plants mafia. These mafias cause power interruptions and also lead to the change of Ministers and officials. These mafias are even operating internationally. It’s a known fact that changes that have occurred in the highest positions of many countries are the results of interventions by these mafia gangs. The recent reshuffle of cabinet Ministers in our country proves that this situation is present here too. There had been changes of heads in the Fuel and Electricity sectors.
Getting rid of PUC head
An allegation is levelled by those who love the CEB that there is a plan to remove the Director General of the Public Utilities Commission PUC). This is a serious allegation. He has introduced a long-term plan regarding electricity generation. The plan will greatly favour the country.
The Electrical Engineers, who claimed that the project was harmful to the country, introduced an alternate electricity generation plan. It is doubtful which plan would be chosen for implementation as the decision of the mafia would finally reign.
The Electrical Engineers, who claimed that the project was harmful to the country, introduced an alternate electricity generation plan It is doubtful which plan would be chosen for implementation as the decision of the mafia would finally reign
King Solomon’s Mines
Many groups connected to the CEB are directly or indirectly involved in these mafias. Those who oppose them can go home on their own accord or choose, as an alternative, to be interdicted for fraud. This is why it is said that the CEB is a treasure trove full of gold, minerals and silver, much more than King Solomon’s Mines.
The extent of the Diesel Mafia
Amounts paid during the past five years for the purchase of diesel power from private power plants.
Rs 31 Billion spent on diesel
This expenditure is not small. This amount had been recovered from consumers and thereafter paid by the CEB. The amount that had been spent exceeds the amount of Rs 10 billion in the alleged Bond scam. It is pertinent to investigate how a sum equivalent to 30 times the value of the alleged Bond Scam had been spent to purchase diesel power during the past five years. Despite power plants established from 2013 up to now, on the recommendation of electricity generation plans and with the view of providing electricity at low cost, questions are raised as to how this colossal amount was spend. Who was behind the purchasing of diesel power at a huge cost and making payments to the private sector?
Mini electricity power plants
The truth is that over the years high ranking politicos-who held power- or their siblings, relatives and friends had become share holders or owners of private Hydro Power Plants. Added to this during emergencies power had been obtained from Mini Electric power plants which are fully or indirectly owned by CEB engineers. There are 181 such power plants now in operation. In 2010 this number was 94. During a period of seven years the number of such plants has increased by one hundred percent. When considering the cost of obtaining power from these Mini power plants, the CEB could have built its own Mini power plants or built a new LNG power station. The CEB despite showing reluctance to put up Mini power plants prefers to purchase power from the private sector.
If the need arises to obtain power from a Mini power plant or from a Diesel power plant, one should only close Circuit A or B of the power generation circuit at Victoria Power Station. This could be simply done by giving one telephone call. This way they could create a country-wide emergency situation and go ahead in purchasing power from the private sector.
During the immediate past these type of incidents took place. This type of situation could also be brought about by a sudden strike action, or adopting a work to rule campaign. Considering it as a matter of national importance taking preventive action is the order of the day.
The other important issue is why this country, which could spend Rs 310 million during a period of five years to purchase diesel power at a high cost, construct its own Macro level power plants to use wind power and solar power? A unit of power from Wind or Solar panels costs less than Rs 10. But it appears that the CEB prefers to make the large scale entrepreneurs richer. The businessmen, possessing solar panels fixed on their houses, add the power generated during the day to the National Grid and use the power from the national grid in the night. A rough estimate suggests that if they had given 100 units to the National Grid during a month and if their electricity bill shows the use of 90 units, they will receive a zero bill.
This is also another fraud. There is a clear difference between the price of a unit of a solar power and the price of a unit of electricity. But this fact has been ignored.
These aren’t acts of normal pilferage, but done in a right royal manner. The authorities abhor the actions of unions which point out these lapses or stage protests disapproving them. It is noteworthy that presently the leaders of trade unions, affiliated to the three main parties, had been discontinued from service. They may be called up soon to be re-appointed. If they do not fall prey to any bribes or are not elevated to higher positions and betray their followers, there is every chance of more large scale acts of fraud and corruption regarding the CEB being revealed.
Even though much is spoken about renewable energy the situation remains unchanged
Response from Tennekoon
The following is a response from Ranjith Keerthi Tennekoon of the Anti Corruption Front. “There are only a handful of honest officials in the CEB. Mafia is present in most institutes and not confined to Diesel and Coal industries. The providing of electricity in the country and to our homes is carried out in the way the Mafia thinks best. But it is strange that the country is not aware of these Mafias. Purchasing of Diesel power from private sector goes unabated sighting urgency requirements. Even though much is spoken about renewable energy the situation remains unchanged. Though pronouncements are made that Diesel Power is purchased in accordance with international price structures, most of these transactions involve underhand grafting. Tenders were called for the construction of 17 liquefied natural gas power plants, but construction had not begun in a single one. Muddling during the time the tenders were opened frustrated foreign companies. These companies were willing to invest. They left saying that they will never invest here. One company had filed a case at the appellate Courts.
Stories of Ministry officials owning houses in Australia and UK surfaced. Many skyscrapers emerged in Colombo. The main task now is the making of financial plans for the 2020 Elections. Even though the President has the power to take any decision regarding any ministry no decisions have been taken with regard to the Mafia that is prevalent at the CEB. Still Norochcholai hasn’t obtained the environmental certificate even though one year has lapsed since 30th June 2017.
The environmental security order imposed on Norochcholai hadn’t been activated so far. According to environmental reports there had been discharges of Mercury, Nickel and Zinc. During the past few months the workers had contacted several sicknesses.
Thuggery was used when tenders were called for at Kerawalapitiya. In Hambantota permission had been granted for LNG power plants without calling for tenders. The CMEC which constructed Norochcholai had been the most fortunate investor. The entire world is aware of how this company paid commissions to politicians and officials. LI CHOYANG, who was the vice chairman of that company and in charge of operations in Sri Lanka, was convicted of grafting and corruption and was jailed in 2014. At that time a Chinese Bank declined to grant loans to this company. However permission had been granted to such a company to operate. Investors who were brought down by the BOI returned.
In response to a letter published in Lankadeepa on June 10 under the headline ‘How top ranks earn money by supplying electricity to the country’ the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Trade Union in a letter signed by its secretary C.H.D. Gamage states the following.
“A charge has been raised against us in a letter that we are engaged in an effort to oust the Public Utility Commission Director General because he has presented an electricity generation plan favourable to the country.
“The duty of the PUC is only to monitor the activities of the CEB. However getting involved in duties or controlling the CEB do not come under the purview of the PUC. Also they do not have the authority to engage in CEB’s duties. They are also not qualified to prepare a plan to generate electricity. It is also criticised for being a stooge of businessmen and non governmental organisations and abusing the power of an independent commission.
On one occasion that PUB issued an order to buy electricity even at a price higher than Rs. 23 per unit from private wind power stations. However the CEB showed it was possible to buy electricity at a price between Rs 12 to15
“The main charge against the PUC Director General is putting the CEB’s functions in a state of confusion.
It isn’t known to many in the society, but there are cases pending against him in court on charges of giving bribes to some members of the PUC to sell solar energy systems.
“Our concern is only to have honest and experienced officers to serve the PUB and work for the benefit of the public.
“Another complaint is the stoppage of a major power plant in order to lavishly earn through the selling of electricity generated by minor plants. These plants are owned by CEB engineers. But it is a known fact that electricity generated by hydro, wind and solar are linked to the main grid through the panels installed on roofs of the individual buildings.
“Accordingly, the owner of the minor generation location can link its supply to the main grid without involving the CEB. This clears the CEB of the charges that it manipulates power generation of the Major power stations and in its bid to sell electricity generated through the minor generation plants.
“The other complaint which is emptying the major reservoirs to enhance the buying of electricity from the diesel power plant is also a fabricated story spread in the society, the CEBETU later states.
“On one occasion that PUB issued an order to buy electricity even at a price higher than Rs. 23 per unit from private wind power stations. However the CEB showed it was possible to buy electricity at a price between Rs 12 to15 enabling the supply of electricity at a lower price. But PUC did not agree to the alternative buying suggested by the CEB and finally we had to seek the decision of the court to save the people from being burdened by this chaos.
“On another occasion CEB ETU members had to face death threats when they opposed the proposal included in the Budget to make a payment in dollars for the supply of electricity through minor generation plants.
“These situations help to identify clearly who are profiting under the guise of environment protection, in the sale of minor hydro, wind or solar power generations. “Yet another frequent complaint levelled against our trade union is about a mafia operation dealing with the supply of diesel and coal. The threats being made on us are accelerating after we began to challenge the racket involving large scale LNG power stations which are operating beyond the need of the country.
This is done by several strongmen of the Government under the cover of foreign investment.
With regard to large scale investments and the long time involved in gaining returns, private investors don’t fancy making investments. On the other hand a coal power station is often planned on soft loan obtained from countries like Japan
“Coal is imported to the country by a separate company, which is state owned, and diesel is imported by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. CEB is not involved in the import of both these supplies. And those against us are intentionally engaged in a process to link CEB in a corruption net with regard to the import of coal and diesel.
“We don’t have any special liking to coal or any other fuel and our power generation plan includes sources of power such as Hydro electricity, LNG, coal wind and solar. “If we are only interested in our comfort, we prefer a more convenient operation which involves LNG and Diesel power stations located close to Colombo. This is better than struggling to operate a coal power station in a difficult area like Puttalam.
“With regard to large scale investments and the long time involved in gaining returns, private investors don’t fancy making investments. On the other hand a coal power station is often planned on soft loan obtained from countries like Japan. The fear of losing profiteering opportunities compel the opposition forces to fight against the coal power generation under the guise of environment protection.
“Our wish is to help usher in a good future for the younger generation by providing electricity at an affordable price and develop industries. “Finally we would like to stress that the main aim of making complaints against CEB engineers is to clear the bad impression created against us. Our efforts have thrown obstacle in the way of those who are trying to rob peoples’ money through the CEB,” he said.
When contacted a spokesperson of the Public Utilities Commission PUC), who wished to remain anonymous, said that when going by the terms of the Public Utilities Commission Act there is a minimum cost at which electricity could be purchased.
“Under clause number 43 powers are vested to amend the power generation system. What should happen is to obtain power from a plant proposed by the generation plan at the minimum cost for a specified period. There should be a mixture of power stations. What are the types of power stations that should be constructed, at what price should power be purchased and what should be its capacity are all mentioned therein. The main requirement should be the availability of power at the lowest price for the consumer, also taking into consideration the impact on the environment.
Under clause number 43 powers are vested to amend the power generation system.
“The power generation plan should be amended every two years. But the plans of 2013, 2015, and 2017 haven’t been made active. They should make amendments taking into consideration the economic changes and changes in technology. These are based on forecasts:
For example until 2011 we never thought about Solar Panels that could be mounted on roofs. But now we are obtaining power from them. An amendment was brought in 2015/2017 to make us obtain 90 Megawatts from this source.
It’s normal that with the phase of economic development the demand for electricity is expected to rise. Accordingly the required capacity had been worked out. For example if a power station with capacity to produce 200 Megawatts is constructed it would greatly facilitate in meeting the increased demand,” the spokesperson said.
Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said that the CEB purchases electricity only to meet emergency requirements.
“During earlier times we purchased electricity to meet the requirements caused by the severe drought we experienced. When the water levels in the reservoirs generating power dropped to 20% we purchased electricity which was done keeping with international specification by calling for bids. There is no way that electricity can be purchased haphazardly. We only purchase thermal power in order to offset the difference in the daily generation of electricity by the CEB.
When the water levels in the reservoirs generating power dropped to 20% we purchased electricity keeping with international specifications.
We are doing this in order to balance the output in the circuit. The other point is that we resort to this practice of purchasing electricity following a tender procedures despite whatever urgency the requirement is based on. Electricity is an essential requirement of the public without which we cannot exist. Sri Lanka is the only country in Asia where electricity is provided all twenty four hours of the day. Anyone can level charges against this activity. We are acting in a complete transparent manner. If anyone makes any allegation I am ready to conduct a justifiable investigation.
The General Secretary of the CEB Workers’ Union Ranjan Jayalal said that the gravity of the frauds and corruption in the CEB is such that the three leaders of the workers unions belonging to all three main parties have been interdicted since February 11. “That is what happened to those who spoke against the arbitrary salary increases.
“Fraud and corruption are well-rooted everywhere in the CEB. Only very few have been spared. I too was offered Rs 2 million to resist me from speaking about frauds and corruption.
Fraud and corruption are well-rooted everywhere in the CEB. Only very few have been spared. I too was offered Rs 2 million
“This is a big game and those who do not wish to take part in these games have only two options; either go home with corruption charges or with an interdiction order or keep supporting it,” he said.
Sri Lanka Independent Workers Union Secretary Priyantha Prabhath said that no investigations had been conducted regarding the allegations made in connection with the Mafia in the CEB and also about the revelations made by many.
“There had been no investigations regarding the matters disclosed by Minister Champika Ranawaka. The mafia is so active here. A recent example may be quoted.
An electric post fell recently and four CEB employees were injured. Earlier some permanent workers died. Up to now no investigations had been conducted. There are several issues regarding the quality standard of these electrical posts. These issues are dragging on without any solution in sight.
A recent example may be quoted. An electric post fell recently and four CEB employees were injured. Earlier some permanent workers died. Up to now no investigations had been conducted.
The emoluments of senior officers of the CEB administration are 120 times more than their salaries. This is despite the circulars stipulating that it should not exceed 60%. No one makes any inquiries about it,” said Prabhath.