A solution burning in the sky
Posted on April 4th, 2016

The Editorial Courtesy The Island

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has reportedly unveiled an ambitious plan to double the buffer stock of electricity to ensure a reliable power supply. The feasibility of this project may be in doubt, but such action is urgently required if the economy is not to suffer a paralysing blow. The government is also said to have resorted to emergency power purchases to meet the current shortfall in power generation.

The CEB is faced with a double whammy; the prevailing drought has not only greatly reduced its hydro power generation capacity but also led to an uptick in the electricity consumption due to unbearable heat. Power cuts are a worrisome proposition for any government given their political and economic costs.

It is heartening that the government has stopped tilting at CEB grid substations and decided to grasp the nettle. The power crisis, which manifests itself from time to time, is not of recent origin though the incumbent dispensation has to carry the can, so to speak. Successive governments have neglected the power sector and sought to evolve solutions the way the hapless public gropes for candles during a power cut. The power crisis has become something like the chronic kidney disease; none of the many proposed remedies have worked all these years and the situation continues to worsen.

Bernard Shaw has famously said all professions are conspiracies against the laity. This is true of the venal professionals in Sri Lanka’s power sector. They are in the pay of various racketeers who profit from the CEB’s inability to meet the increasing demand for power. They thrive on commissions from power projects and the supply of electricity at exorbitant prices to the CEB.

Macro-level solutions, no doubt, need to be sought to the power crisis. But, the focus of the government needs to be on the micro-level solutions as well. Why there has been no serious attempt on the part of the state to incentivise more and more people to switch to solar power as well as emission free vehicles defies comprehension. Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has announced a government plan to enable one million households to switch to solar power. This move should be commended, but proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.

What prevents the ordinary people from tapping solar energy is the prohibitive installation cost, which the government ought to step in to bring down drastically. Subsidies to promote the generation of solar power are a worthwhile investment; they will help the country cut down on thermal power generation and the oil imports, to a considerable extent.

The late President J. R. Jayewardene, at his wits’ end, unable to remove the scourge of terror and ensure public safety, once declared that the people had to look after their own security—thamange arakshawa thamanma balaganna ona. Now, it looks as if the people had to meet their energy requirements themselves.

There seems to be a sinister campaign against moves to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuel based power generation in spite of what Minister Siyambalapitiya tells us. No less a person than Minister Daya Gamage recently lashed out at the CEB, during a TV debate, for an inordinate delay on its part in granting approval for a solar power project at one of his garment factories in Ampara. This is a damning indictment on the CEB and why the government has not ordered a probe into the minister’s complaint is the question. There must be hundreds of entrepreneurs like Minister Gamage willing to switch to solar power and they must be enabled to launch their projects so that the CEB will also benefit from surplus power fed to the national grid. Is it that some CEB panjandrums and politicians in the pay of private power suppliers and diesel, coal, furnace oil and hydro lobbies are trying to discourage the solar power generation?

6 Responses to “A solution burning in the sky”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    The editor boldly asks the right question. Everyone knows the answer.

    1. It is true that some CEB employees, politicians and those in between are in the pay of private suppliers.

    2. It is also true for the narcotics trade.

    3. Glyphosate is another area where some scientists, media men and agricultural groups are in the pay of powerful agrochemical manufacturers.

    4. Mosquito control units are influenced to stop their work by producers of drugs, coils, nets, etc. as it is their business.

    5. Domestic milk industry is held hostage by milk importers.

    6. Petroleum prices cannot be reduced as promised by the UNP regime as it affects the profit of Indian oil company.

    7. Despite ambitious promises by the President he has been unable to curtail tobacco imports due to the financial power of the industry.

    8. Proper income tax cannot be collected as some tax collectors and even politicians are in the pay of big time tax frauds. In 2004 the government went so far as to offer a selective tax amnesty to its election financiers.

    9. On a lesser level, government buses mysteriously breakdown along profitable routes. Some are in the pay of private operators who make sure SLTB buses don’t run in sufficient numbers to reduce the profits of private operators.

    10. All political parties now have a finger in the lucrative provincial councils pie. SLFP, JVP and TNA opposed it but now they are on board. Close relatives of parliamentarians are in PCs. A large number of provincial councillors ‘stood by Mahinda’ in the Nugegoda Movement to ensure he will not initiate a popular move to stop the colossal waste in running PCs. Once their fears subsided, they left him for Sirisena.

    These are thriving corrupt areas COPE or anyother group has not investigated for obvious reasons.

  2. mario_perera Says:

    Thank you Dilrook.

    The inevitable conclusion that I draw from your downright true observations is:

    Sri Lanka is a lost cause.

    No so called ‘democratically elected government’ can clear up the mess. the cancer of corruption with immunity for the corrupt has spread over the who national body. What we read in the articles on this site and others are cries of pain and anguish. It is like a dying man venting his excruciating sufferings to the four winds.

    Everyone who can abandon the helpless and hopeless ship is doing so by the hundreds. Those who remain are obliged to dance to the beat and the tunes of the masters.

    What we need is a French style REVOLUTION. But the impoverished and enfeebled population is incapable of an uprising. The JVP alienatd the masses. The terror tactics of the LTTE were their undoing. Nothing short of a ‘storming of the Bastille’ and overthrowing (which means ‘killing’) the corrupt self made ‘aristocrats, can save this country. the only time we came close to such a revolution was in the nationwide ‘hartal’ of 1953. The Hartal organized by the Leftists on August 12, 1953 was one of the most significant events in the history of Sri Lanka. Yet it failed when the leftists were on the threshold of power. the leaders had only to take inside the portals of power. Yet they did not. Why? Because they were of the same mold as the democratic power wielders. Their anti-democratic farce was exposed. While on the threshold of power with the cabinet having taken refuge in a British warship, they told their supporters, the MASSES who stood as one man behind them: go home, it is all over. Incidentally they were the most vociferous supporters of Sirima in crushing the 1971 JVP revolt.

    Yes, what we need is a REVOLUTION by the MASSES from the base. What we need is a storming of the ‘Bastille’. But who can provoke this ‘earthquake’ that will engulf this corrupt sea of racketeers and swindlers of all sorts and the ‘knowing eyes’ at the very top, call them president, prime minister, ministers, parliamentarians of every kind and at all levels?

    Theoretically only the army can do it, but the army leaders will never do it for fear of betrayal.

    In short, nothing can save this country.

    Our religions are only facades. Countless are the temples, the kovils, the churches and the mosques that dot the country from East to West, from North to South, but to what avail? they are all IN IT…hand in glove with the rulers: with the system. the blessed One and Jesus Christ have fled the scene long ago. those in their shoes are good for nothing USURPERS…they are darkness with the face of light, fighting for their own survival and taking the masses for yet another ride.

    Yes Sri Lanka is a lost cause. My heartfelt advice to the country’s youth is: Get the hell out of here. Go away leave the burning house.

    Mario Perera

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Quick take here –

    De-stabilising of Lanka is happening all the time, from outside (from INDIA mostly), and from within (for easy money, power grabs, mostly). Nothing new – we have a magnified version this time.

    Time to make lemonaide out of all the lemons.

    It is time that the GoSL (however flawed) at least look to some Hope and at its own miserable survival, stop harassing the MR family & the armed forces (an utter waste of tie and energy), and get down to do the job they are supposed to do of Nation Building, and also bring in more trusted and able leaders from the past.

    INDIA must be assured that Lanka will never jeopardise their Security.

    Suggestions :

    We should take this as an opportunity to clear up the FALSE war crimes issue, the dumb political past and move forward, go toward Green Development, job creation, Unity in Lanka for the common cause to Save Lanka through Self Reliance. Spending money in the pockets of the masses a must through job creation and any other means – that is the great release valve for frustrations. Plus a good sense Education System with English as a second language.

    – Finish the FALSE War Crimes investigation at local level FAST. Shake hands all around and forgive and forget. Include minorities in future plans.

    – Form a proper group of leaders (Governing Council) of 5-8 people, including past trusted leaders – people still want them.

    – Start an Oath of Allegiance for all in Lanka, as done in USA etc.

    – Job Creation as the most importand immediate need.

    Many more aspects to be handled, FAST. Sri Lanka is a small country – it can be done.

  4. Asanga Says:

    I sincerely hope and wish that the bleak future predicted by Mario shall not come to pass; although, it does sound very possible that it might.

    It is indeed a solution burning in the sky! As I am going home from work on the train, I see farm house after farm house with the roofs covered with solar panels, all along the Swiss countryside. Every year, it seems that there are more and more farmhouses with solar panel installations. Switzerland has a considerable amount less of sunlight per year, than does Sri Lanka.

    Maybe the apparently ‘Environmentally conscious’ Garment Industry itself, can take all their production facilities in the free trade zones and mount panels on roofs. Among other things, this will be an excellent promotion strategy that the garments they produce were made with ‘Sustainable Energy’.

    More efficient, and more cost effective Photovoltaic materials are being introduced to the market every year. Quite a lot of this is neither in Europe nor in North America, but in China. That is a quite a lot more accessible, even with the moronic attitude of our current government towards our Old Friend. So the prohibitive costs referred to in the above article is getting lesser and lesser with time.

    If we ever have a strong leader again, who will lead the nation on the right path, he or she should take a leaf from the book of King Parakramabahu, and state that ‘Not a ray of sunlight should hit the soil of our motherland, before first producing energy for our people’! (or something similar and more dramatic :) )

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    We agree with Asanga’s Go Green Energy policy.


    Tibet, taken over by China is getting modern infrastructure and modern equipment as in China. However, Tibet’s neighbor, Bhutan, which country is virtually taken over by INDIA (for Bhutan, it is Indian labor, Indian oil, India has given no visa free entry to Bhutanese people who can enter INDIA and settle down there and work, etc), is still bogged down in non-development as is most of INDIA.

    Both Tibet & Bhutan are Buddhist countries with similar cultures. Both countries are jam in the Indo/China geophysical sandwich.

    Lanka can take some lessons here, and draw back before TOTAL INDIAN TAKE OVER HAPPENS.

  6. aloy Says:

    Out of the four commentators above two seems to have given up hope while the others think it can (democracy) still work. I too was of the view (before Jan 8th) that military take over is the only way out for us. But looking at what happened to Myanmar I am reluctant think that it is a viable option. We might fall from frying pan to the fire.

    What we need is an honest leadership. Someone who feel the pulse of the people. Someone who knows that it is unethical to hire a building for a monthly fee of Rs. 18m for some ministry when the space for such work was available elsewhere. Someone who can advise his brother when he tries to rent a house at Rs. 7.5 a month. Ordinary citizens have to suffer to pay these rents and the GOSL it self has to find money by getting loans to fund these extravagances.

    There was a time I wrote in this forum that India should find a leader from BJP to lead that country to greatness again. That was the time when Man Mohan Singh was playing havoc with Jayalalita et al. I think they have found that person in Modi. It looks as if he has steadied the ship. He does not have siblings or children to think about and arrange deals.

    Can’t we find that person from amongst us, the professionals. Of course he need to be young and dynamic.

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