ECONOMYNEXT- Electricity consumers facing huge bills after the COVID-19 lockdown are to be given further relief at a loss of Rs 3bn to the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), the Cabinet spokesman has said.
Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena said the cabinet has approved the relief to be given to the electricity consumers for the months of March, April and May.
Consumers will pay whatever they were billed in the month of February for the months of March, April and May, he told reporters at the regular Cabinet briefing today July 16.
“For example, if the bill of the month of Pre-COVID-19 February is Rs 1,000, then the amount that should be paid for the months of March, April and May should also be Rs 1,000 each,” Gunawardena said.
The officials were also instructed to deduct the amount already paid by the consumers accordingly from the coming month’s bills.
Further, he said the subject Minister, Mahinda Amaraweera, informed the Cabinet that he appointed a committee to look into whether there was any computer-related problem in preparing the electricity bills after COVID-19 and do recalculations accordingly.
Last week, the Cabinet decided to reduce electricity bills by 25% where electricity consumers have consumed electricity units between 0-90 units in the months of March, April and May.
The consumers were also given a grace period of three months to pay up while there will not be any disconnections or late fees.
Because meter readers could not perform their regular duties due to the lockdown, the electricity bills became hugely distorted as consumers get their first level of consumption at lower rates and have to pay a surcharge for higher consumption.
Since the readings were taken months later, the surcharges were excessive, resulting in artificially high bills.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) proposed a formula for the recalculation of the bills for the two providers CEB and Lanka Electric Company Ltd., but the CEB did not implement that.
LECO consumers have already received the revised bills, and the billing cycle has not caused a loss to the utility which serves a small number of consumers in the Greater Colombo area.
But, with elections around the corner, the government has been keen to show it is providing relief to consumers, causing huge losses to the already troubled state-run utility CEB. (Colombo, July 16, 2020-sb)
Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe