CEB should take a leaf out of Bangladesh's book

Dec 2 (IL) Sri Lanka is losing billions of rupees annually due to system losses, which runs upto 21% of the country's total power generation, senior officials of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) says. According to the officials the system losses should not exceed 13 percent.

The losses are mainly due to technical problems in the power supply, through thefts, meter reading errors and technical problems in the lines.

However, in neighbouring Bangladesh the power sector authorities have initiated a very ambitious programme to mitigate these problems. They revealed they had minimized their system losses from a massive 32% to 26% during a brief two-year period.

A Rural Electrification Board member in Bangladesh, Tauhidul Islam said they held talks with relevant officials on how to reduce the losses. "We promised the responsible officers a salary increase starting from 6% if they were successful in reducing losses. Lesser the losses, more the salary increase," he said.

He added the responsible officials were told if they failed to minimise the losses, they would face salary cuts. This programme has been very successful with all workers making a concerted effort to reduce the losses. "The system benefits, the workers benefit," he said.

The CEB on the other hand is yet to implement any such programme. The authorities seem to turn a blind eye to the problems, sources alleged. "It seems they don't know the gravity of this problem. We would save a lot if we minimized the system losses," sources said.

Countries like Norway and Japan face an annual system loss of only around 9%, as they have two or three transmission main lines, unlike in Sri Lanka, which has only one main line. Sri Lanka on the other hand cannot afford huge investments, as it is not economically viable. "It costs a lot to construct such lines," sources said.

Senior officials however said the more practical approach in reducing losses in Sri Lanka would be to augment some of the existing lines, construct short power lines and carry out regular maintenance.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi power authorities revealed only 20% of the Bangladesh population has access to electricity.

It has the lowest per capita consumption of commercial energy in South Asia. In Sri Lanka nearly 60% have access to electricity. However the population in Bangladesh is 133 million while it is only 19 million in Sri Lanka.