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Conduct audit on electricity consumption of public sector as an approach to ensure energy security

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The Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis recommended to the Public Utilities Commission that by following an analytical review of the figures presented by the Electricity Board, Public Utilities Commission, etc. and taking into consideration all other factors affecting the price of electricity, including considering the opinion given by experts that the existing electricity price can be reduced by about 33%, price of electricity should be reduced by at least 20% in the year 2024 so that the Electricity Board will not suffer any loss.

Accordingly, the officials of the Public Utilities Commission informed the Committee that by the end of this month, they can submit the necessary recommendations to reduce the electricity bill.

This matter was discussed when the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis met in the Parliament recently (22) under the chairmanship of Hon. Gamini Waleboda, Member of Parliament.

Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Public Utilities Commission, Industry Development Board, Enterprise Development Authority, Department of Population and Statistics, Department of Inland Revenue and officials of the government institutions, including Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industries Board and a group of industrialists had also been called before the Committee meeting held.

The Committee gave several directives to the relevant institutions and officials to identify the micro, small and medium scale industries that are directly affected by the economic crisis and to activate the local economy and increase the foreign exchange earnings by reviving the industry sector.

Accordingly, the Committee pointed out that due to the increase in electricity bills, the number of electricity connection cuts reported across the island has exceeded one million. It was also emphasized that in order to alleviate the pressure on the industry and the society, it should be arranged to provide electricity connections again by charging only 50% of the outstanding charges at the initial stage with the concessional basis of payment of outstanding electricity charges on installment basis.

Moreover, the Committee was of the view to allow the customer to pay the connection fee in installments so as to avoid discouraging new entrepreneurs to start micro, small and financial industries due to high charges for getting fixed electricity connection and instructed to review the new connection fee and work to reduce it as much as possible.

Furthermore, the Committee Chair instructed the Public Utilities Commission to conduct an audit on the electricity consumption in the public sector as an approach to ensure energy security.

The Committee recommended to the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to start a loan scheme at subsidized interest for the purchase of solar panel systems with a view to promoting solar energy as a source of energy supply to industries. Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance expressed its agreement to provide refinancing facilities subject to a maximum as per the proposal made by the Committee to implement a loan scheme targeting micro, small and medium scale industrialists under subsidized interest rates.

In order to ensure the supply of raw materials required for the smooth running of micro, small and medium scale industries, the Committee also recommended to identify the raw materials that must be imported from abroad and impose tax concessions on such raw materials. Furthermore, it was instructed that Copper, lead, aluminum and other industrial scraps used as raw materials in various domestic industries currently being sold by the Electricity Board to external buyers and other entities, to also be issued to micro, small and medium scale industrialists recommended by the Ministry of Industry and the Industrial Development Board.

 

It was observed at the Committee meeting discussion held that the definition used by the Department of Population and Statistics for micro, small and medium industries and the definition used by other institutions such as the Industrial Development Board and the Central Bank for those industries are different from each other, which is an obstacle in making policy decisions. Accordingly, the Committee ordered the Department of Population and Statistics to immediately provide its support to the policy makers by releasing statistical data based on a common definition.

The Committee also recommended that the Credit Information Bureau should take prompt action to remove their credit information from the blacklists so as to facilitate access to credit facilities for micro, small and medium scale industries facing financial crisis to activate their balance sheets and to review all existing laws and procedures for registration of micro, small and medium scale industries as well as to obtain licenses and introduce a simple system.

Accordingly, the Committee informed all the parties to establish a steering Committee headed by the Ministry of Industry to implement the recommendations given by the Committee and to report its progress within a week.

State Ministers Hon. Prasanna Ranaweera, Hon. Indika Anuruddha, Members of Parliament Hon. Wasantha Yapabandara, Hon. M. W. D. Sahan Pradeep Withana, Hon. Mohomad Muzammil, Hon. Nimal Piyathissa and Hon. Jagath Priyankara including government officials were present at the Committee meeting held.

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