"The latest pressure on CEB is to accept Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for power generation," Siyambalapitiya said, writing in The Sunday Times, an English weekly.
"Without analysing what the price implications are, many politicians and bureaucrats, and even the present CEB Chairman declare frequently that we should “look” at LNG power plants, not coal."
He said three independent studies -- by USAID, 2002, the World Bank, 2004, Japan International Cooperation Agency, 2006 -- found that LNG was not an economical source for power generation for Sri Lanka, which was confirmed by CEB’s own studies.
Despite this, Siyambalapitiya says moves are being made "over the past several months by external agencies to push an LNG terminal and power plants on CEB."
The current over-dependence on oil plants, Siyambalapitiya says, was thrust upon the utility through a series of external 'power committees' which directly went against CEB's long term generation plan.
External power committees were appointed when CEB chairmen refused to bow down to political pressure.
Between 1992 and 1994, the external committee was known as the 'Power Committee', headed by the then Secretary to the Treasury, R. Paskaralingam.
From 1995 to 2001, the 'Power Committee' was headed by K. Balapatabendi, Secretary to the President, with Thilan Wijesinghe, who headed the country's investment promotion office, playing a leading role.
From 2002 to 2004, the committee was re-established as the 'Energy Supply Committee, again headed by Paskaralingam.
From 2005 to now, the role is being performed by Strategic Enterprise Management Agency (SEMA) which has not yet pushed any unsuitable plants on the CEB.
Siyambalapitiya says eventually 11 oil plants had come up, pushed by "promoters, their political masters, and some CEB insiders."
"Without building coal-fired power plants and the remaining hydropower plants, the politicians pressed CEB to build or to procure from the private sector, several oil-burning power plants," Siyambalapitiya said.
"However, to the credit of CEB and the eight private operators, these power plants, though expensive, are performing very well and that is why Sri Lanka has no regular blackouts while the rest of the region (Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) has blackouts and load shedding almost everyday."
50 billion rupee blunder
All coal plants, and the Upper Kotmale hydro-electric plant had been pushed back since the late eighties by a series of heads of state due to protests from religious, political and environmental lobbies.
Siyambalapitiya points out that the Ceylon Workers Congress (Upper Kotmale), the Bishop of Chilaw (Norochcholai) and the Environmental Foundation, a charity, had put pressure on political decision makers, paving the way for liquid thermal plants and high costs.
The CEB was estimating that it would have to spend 97 billion rupees for thermal generation in 2008, which it was trying to recover through an increase in power prices.
Siyambalapitiya said if Sri Lanka's then president on March 31, 1999 had signed a request to the government of Japan to finance the Norochcholai plant, three coal generators would be running today, wiping out most of the fuel bill.
"Similarly, if on 31st March 2002, the then Prime Minister did not summon the Japanese Ambassador to tell His Excellency to get off the Nororchcholai power plant project (Japan had agreed to finance the project through a long-term loan), and allowed his Energy Minister to proceed with the project, we would have Nororchcholai fully operational today," he said.
"Again, if sometime in mid-2002, the then Prime Minister did not unilaterally cancel the commencement of work on the Upper Kotmale hydropower project, Sri Lanka would have been producing 530 million units this year at virtually no cost, no emissions."
Siyambalapitiya says coal is now sold at 13 rupee a kilogram and the Norochcholai plant would have used 380 grams of coal to make unit (kiloWatt-hour) of energy.
"So the fuel cost would be Rs 5 per unit of electricity. An additional rupee would be required for maintenance," Siyambalapitiya said.
"Norochcholai would have produced 5 billion units of electricity this year."
The fuel bill for 2008 would have then been 30 billion rupees for coal and maintenance.
A further 15 billion rupees would be needed for oil plants at peak load periods and the dry season.
This would have reduced the 97 billion rupee fuel and maintenance bill for the utility to about 45 billion rupees, or a saving of around 50 billion rupees.
The latest power tariff hike is aimed at recovering about 44 billion rupees.More Games
Siyambalapitiya says "commendable progress" has been made with the Norochcholai coal plant and the Upper Kotmale hydro plant and "some progress" in Trincomalee where a joint venture plant is planned with India's National Thermal Power Corporation.
He says coal power and remaining hydro power have to be built or Sri Lanka must move to nuclear power to bring down base power cost. Solar, wind or biomass (dendro) plants cannot make a significant impact.
Together with the "LNG games" yet anther game is being played to delay the Hambantota coal plant, in the South coast of the island which the CEB has planned to put online in 2015.
Bids have been called twice and no progress has been seen in the Hambantota plant, which was the first coal plant proposed by the CEB, before it was kicked around the country from Trincomalee in the East coast to Norochcholai in the West coast.
"On that day (approximately seven years from now in mid-March 2015), this same article can be re-published, to analyse how electricity prices could have been lower if Hambantota power plant was allowed to be built in 2008 by the present-day politicians," Siyambalapitiya warned.
"The game is not over."