By Shabiya Ali Ahlam Amidst the highly criticised power crisis, the nation’s energy regulator is noted to be actively exploring the option of introducing prepaid metering in an attempt to allow affordable electricity to be accessible throughout the country. The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) said discussions with the key stakeholders were currently on-going to ensure the initiative would be established in a practical manner, one that would result in a win-win situation for both parties – the consumer and supplier.
“Prepaid metering for electricity is an option we are currently deliberating. We understand that before bringing about the system that will result in increased access to electricity, it is imperative that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and Lanka Electricity Company Private Limited (LECO) have in place the necessary infrastructure to push the initiative,” shared PUCSL Director General Damitha Kumarasinghe with Mirror Business.
To function similar to prepaid telephone connections, the system will allow consumers to save energy through controlled usage, where power will be automatically cut off once the paid limit is exceeded. While the idea of such a system, which will be the first-of-its-kind in Sri Lanka, comes from the utilities regulator itself, it is learnt that the infrastructure investment, such as installing the prepaid meters and ensuring the targetted audience has access to prepaid cards, is to be borne by the suppliers, the CEB and LECO. The discussions exploring the manner it would be implemented are currently standing at a preliminary stage and the exact investment required too is yet to be spelled out.
According to Kumarasinghe, should the implementation go as planned, the project would reach completion in approximately one and half to two years. “We need to get it right so the ground work will take some time,” the DG added. The decision to consider the possibility of introducing the system was made following an islandwide survey conducted by the PUCSL that revealed 20 percent of the population are willing to switch to prepaid metering, given the option. Talks on prepaid metering for electricity initially took place in 2011 but the notion didn’t materialize. Kumarasinghe assured the commission is now “realistically” looking at the possibility. Although new to Sri Lanka, the concept is quite popular in other parts of the world, with it first being introduced in the form of coin-operated gas meters in the United Kingdom. Research conducted by Frost & Sullivan has shown that Southeast Asia will become a hot market for prepaid electricity meter manufacturers with governments considering ways and means to cut revenue losses.