he supply of electricity is one of the most highly charged fields in Sri Lanka and an area with powerful cross–currents of corruption and malpractices.
According to reports, the latest storm is in the relatively new field of wind energy. The newspaper reports said that a proposal to distribute lucrative wind power contracts to local and foreign investors without calling for open tenders has been strongly criticised by energy experts who fear the contracts will be given to political stooges and that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will have to buy wind energy from the Mannar plants at a higher cost. We have already polluted the wind to such an extent that most of us most of the time are breathing poison. Now we are corrupting or polluting wind energy also.
The inflated wind energy prices will eventually be passed on to the public who are already paying the highest electricity rates in the region. But deluded political leaders believe we are becoming the powerhouse of Asia. Indeed, absolute power appears to be corrupting the minds - absolutely.
The newspaper reports say that according to a Cabinet paper, the wind energy park is expected to generate 375 megawatts of power. The plan has been separated into three sectors, and the third one seems to be generating more controversy than wind energy. According to the third part, 125 MW of power will be produced by local investors to be selected not through open competitive bidding; foreign partnership of up to 49 per cent of equity has been allowed.
This section has been divided into small blocks of 10 MW or less and investors are to be paid on a cost-reflective basis. This means that, if prevailing rates are applied, it could be as high as Rs. 22 a unit of electricity. Coal power, which is now the cheapest form of electricity available in Sri Lanka, is around Rs. 9 a unit.
Industry experts say not having bidding is likely to open the power gates for corruption, favouritism and nepotism.
Wind power equipment prices are decreasing in the world market while local interest rates have also gone down significantly. According to an expert, wind energy can be sold at about Rs. 12 a unit. Mannar is known to be one of the best sites for wind energy plants with plenty of wind for about four months of the year.
With all these facilities, the Government must give the benefits of wind energy not so much to local or foreign investors or those with political backing, but to millions of people who are getting a shock every month when they get their electricity bills with fuel adjustment surcharges and other taxes. If not it will be another case of the people’s welfare going with the wind.