Energy starved

Published: Sunday 31 August 2008

energy-starved Sri Lanka has levied a tax on incandescent bulbs of over 40 watts and soon plans to ban the import and manufacture of bulbs of 75 watts and above.

The target is to completely ban the se bulb by 2010. Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (sea) hopes the move will help promote energy efficient compact fluorescent (cfl) bulbs. "The move will reduce the demand on the national grid during the peak hours, between 6 pm and 9.30 pm...This will save 14.5 per cent of the country's power bill," says sea chairperson Ananda Gunasekera. Under the plan, bulbs will be labelled with energy saving ratings and violating companies will be blacklisted. "This is a good move as the country is facing severe power crisis," says Janaka Kiridena, a senior official of Phillips Lighting. Since a cfl bulb is about five times costlier than an incandescent bulb, the ban may not be effective unless the government subsidizes cfl bulbs, says Kiridena. Environmentalists are, however, concerned about the mercury content of discarded cfl bulbs, which will contaminate the environment unless disposed properly. Deputy Director General of sea Harsha Wickremasinghe says: "The government is planning for a centralized disposal mechanism and also a rebate for the consumer when old bulbs are returned." A Danish company has meanwhile expressed interest in setting up mercury recovery plant in the island.

The government has also announced to levy a series of taxes on people who own motor vehicles and cellular phones, and firms that use telecom transmission towers. Authorities hope the tax will earn up to Lankan (Rs) 800 million to the government coffer. Cellular phone users will be charged a two per cent tax, which will subsequently be used to recycle and dispose discarded handsets.

People who use vehicles for personal transport will pay between Lankan (Rs) 100 and Lankan (Rs) 800 a year, depending on the type of vehicle and fuel used. Commercial and public transport vehicles will, however, be exempted from the tax.

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