Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Electricity Conundrum – The smart approach to reducing consumption

I find it very surprising that I have not read anywhere in the English or Sinhala press all of which I have access to on a daily basis to refer to the rationale of the Government’s decision to award a period of free electricity or 50% cut on the bill for those who reduce consumption, by a significant amount. There are many electrical engineers who can subscribe their ideas to this debate, and explain to the uninitiated about the load factors and peaks in consumption.

In line with this pronouncement, the maximum load on Sri Lanka’s power supply is during the hours 6.30 and 9.30 and if we switch off about 100W of power at that time in each household, the loss of the CEB would be reduced by far more than the loss of revenue therefrom. It must also be understood that it translates into a lower budget deficit as the loss is financed by that deficit. So if we are really patriotic, in order that we can help our country we MUST try and in that period reduce our power usage.

In other countries the electricity board provides hugely subsidized quality CFL bulbs, which if our Board also could take a leaf from would help a long way to reduce power consumption. However we cannot trust our Minister to get them at a reasonable price without giving his benefactors the right to skimm a portion. The latter point was made due to proposal he had made to build a CFL plant in SL which would have resulted in high cost low quality CFL bulbs which was not put at the interests of the Nation, but on other considerations.

I do not wish to belabor the point about the careful use of street lighting, with automatic time based switches which will disable the lights during daylight hours, a huge embarrassment of high cost that is not currently managed well.

I come to another more fundamental point, where if we went back to international time zone we had before we reverted back to the Indian Time zone, we can further reduce our peak consumption by a substantial amount as the daylight saving principle kicks in and there is daylight for a longer period, ensuring lower power usage. The problem has been the astrological slavery of some our leaders and protagonists seem to overpower the principles of conservation and saving the world for future generations. In short a very greedy philosophy!

To get back to the original point, the reduction in power usage means that at the margin, the least productive power station is shut. The one that costs the most in Rs/KW to run. Usually one that uses imported diesel fuel or other refined fuel products cost the most to run. It is important to explain to our population, instead of keeping them in a dark pretending that the Govt. is Santa Claus, by showing why it is they are asking for a reduction in electricity usage. Our people should not be assumed to be fools as the Government prefers to treat them, but people who can understand common sense!

The Government has made huge blunders in their assessment of cost of power production, and have messed up all the new power projects by fair means or knowingly for private gain.

It is up to the opposition to explain the cockups of the Govt. power projects, while it is up to the Govt. to try and help the country by explaining the need for the reduction in power consumption. The overall objective is to provide power that is not wasted, to as many people in the country as practically possible at a reasonable cost.

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