Record high electricity disconnections in 2023

Wednesday, 17 January 2024 00:30 –      – 48

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  • Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera reveals over 1 m disconnections occurred in 2023
  • CEB disconnects 965,566 supplies, LECO disconnects 98,834 supplies 
  • Households express frustration over disconnection methods 
  • Criticise Govt. for permitting CEB to raise tariffs, despite a Rs. 52 b profit in 2023

By Charumini de Silva

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera revealed that over one million electricity disconnections occurred in 2023, marking the highest number in history. Out of nearly seven million users, defaulted payments led to 1,064,400 disconnections.

Wijesekera informed the Parliament that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and Lanka Electricity Company Limited (LECO) were responsible for 965,566 and 98,834 disconnections, respectively. Comparatively, in 2019, there were 573,073 disconnections for the entire year, averaging 47,756 per month. Contrastingly, 2023 saw 544,488 disconnections in the first 10 months, with an additional 421,078 in the last two months, totalling the record-breaking 965,566 disconnections for the year.

The CEB explained that lower disconnections in 2020 and 2021 were pandemic-related, with 94,201 and 210,380 annual disconnections, respectively.

Amidst rising concerns, households expressed frustration over disconnection methods and criticised the Government for permitting CEB to raise tariffs, despite a Rs. 52 billion profit in 2023.

Many users pointed out that their limited disposable income forces them to prioritise essential bills, leading to a delicate juggling act to manage various financial obligations.

Last month, the former Public Utilities Commission Chairman Janaka Ratnayake also revealed that electricity disconnections, each of which incurs a Rs. 3,000 reconnection fee, resulting in the CEB enjoying an additional monthly earning.

He accused the CEB of prioritising financial gain over consumer welfare, deeming this practice as illegal and policy-wise unsound.

The Public Utility Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has been directed to instruct the CEB to reduce electricity tariffs, with a Parliamentary Committee urging the dispersal of CEB’s substantial profit within three months starting January 2024.

The Sectorial Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis further requested the PUCSL to introduce a special reasonable pricing system to aid families in poverty.

The CEB justified its proposal for tariff revision by citing a surplus of Rs. 23,730.9 million, suggesting a potential 3.34% reduction in the average tariff. As the debate continues, the focus is on balancing consumer concerns with the financial health of the electricity sector.