Conserving power | Daily News

Conserving power

The appeal made by Power and Energy Minister Ravi Karunanayake to the public to use electricity sparingly, hopefully will be heeded. The Minister said the extreme heat at present, coupled with the prolonged drought has led to soaring power consumption and a heavy demand on power resources.

He said the situation was likely to continue until April-May and requested consumers to switch off unwanted bulbs and adopt other conservation measures until the situation returns to normal. He said, though, that he had no intention of imposing power outages or plans to increase electricity tariffs that would be necessitated if extra power has to be purchased from the private sector.

“We have nearly 6.5 million consumers. If they switch off two bulbs a day, that will help save about 100 Megawatts daily,” he told a meeting summoned to discuss the problems faced by the energy sector, on Tuesday.

Easier said than done, as they say. It is doubtful if the minister's appeal would be heeded in this day and age of a pampered and gadget oriented society who would resent any advice that would intrude into their plush and opulent lifestyles. Even State institutions are remiss in this regard. If one were to walk into a Government office, it is common to see A/Cs on at full blast even in untenanted sections. Government buildings such as state Banks also have their premises decorated with illuminations at night.

Minister Karunanayake also would do well to start off with his ministerial colleagues by getting them to cut off some of the frills in their offices that place a heavy demand on electricity. One recalls sometime in the recent past the Government resorting to rolling power cuts in the midst of a heavy drought where outages ran for varying times of the day. Importers of generators cashed in on the situation and made hay at such times.

Be that as it may, serious attention should be paid towards developing alternative power sources. With the accent of the Government on more and more industrialization, it is incumbent that a stable power sector is established. What is more, the Government should go for cheap and renewable power sources such as wind and solar power. A major drawback in attracting foreign investors to the country in the past was the high cost of electricity which naturally eats into productions costs.

Power generation through the recycling of garbage is yet in its nascent stages though many projects are in the pipeline. All efforts should be made to augment the national grid from whatever source since the position as regards power generation has reached a critical stage. With the increase in the population, the expansion of power connections and the rapid growth in industry over the years, the demand for power has naturally seen a steep rise.

However what we see day in day out is long winded arguments about the merits of different power sources, the clash of opinions between various power lobbies, and accusations and counter accusations of mega corruption in the country's power sector, with little headway made in starting any project that would mitigate the crisis. To her credit, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga took a bold decision and went ahead with the Norochcholai coal power project brushing aside the protests of the Catholic Church. Had she dilly dallied, the country would have by now been in the midst of major power crisis, what with our hydro power capacity catering to only 40 percent of the demand.

Minister Karunanayake should lose no time in embarking on a major power conservation programme to tide over the immediate crisis. Concessions should be offered on the electricity bills of consumers who consume less electricity unit-wise. Schools too should be co-opted in the drive to conserve electricity. We say this because today there are nearly 25 million mobile phones in use (for a population of 20 million) and the cumulative power consumption, in ‘charging’ these mobile phones certainly cannot be inconsiderable. Households can also conserve electricity in other ways. For instance, the ironing of clothes of all members of the family could be done on a single occasion instead of each member doing this at different times.

When present Speaker Karu Jayasuriya was Power and Energy Minister, he launched art competitions and had drawings done on the perimeter walls of power installation buildings, on power conservation themes. However much the Minister strives to conserve power through public appeals, while there may be positive responses from some quarters, there is one segment, though, where such appeals are bound to fall on deaf ears.

We are referring to the millions of cricket fans in this country to whom no amount of appeals or persuasion is going to have any effect. For, whoever the teams involved, the TV sets will be on for a good part of the day while they lap up the action, blissfully unconcerned about the heavy drag on the national grid. Mercifully, the World Cup tournament in England is in May and June by which time the rains would have arrived here to ameliorate the situation. 


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