From Reporter -- Sunday, Aug 12, 2001 --- Page 17
By Meb Cutlack
The second quarter earnings of BEL's parent company, Fortis of Canada, were
up by 17% - with Belize's share of those earnings for the first 6 months of
this year jumping to $33.9 million Canadian dollars compared to $30.9
million in the first 6 months of 2000.
BEL is in fact the third highest contributor to Fortis earnings after
Newfoundland Power and Maritime Electric. The second quarter revenue
figures released on July 31st by Fortis reveal Newfoundland revenue at
approx. $89Cd. million, Maritime at approx $24Cd. million and Belize's and
Becol's combined revenue at approx $21D million.
There is however a huge differentiation in the Newfoundland versus Belize
in energy sales/production in the 2nd quarter. In Newfoundland this figure
was 1,165 giga watt hours, while in Belize (Belize Electric & Becol), the
energy sales! production figure was 76 GWh. Simple mathematics reveal the
startling truth that Newfoundland's (revenue divided by GWh) was less than
a quarter of (revenue divided by GWh) in Belize. (see table).
"We are investing millions to extend (electricity), somebody's gotta pay!"
said H. Stanley Marshall, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fortis
Inc., St. John's, Newfoundland, in an interview last week with a Belizean
newspaper. The statement was made in reference to a total of over $180
million Bze in investments Fortis Inc., has made in Belize's electricity
industry over the past two years.
Mr. Marshall explained to the newspaper that the reason Fortis, a $2
billion company, invested in Belize is because it knows the electricity
business and has faith in Belize as: "a growing and stable economy where it
(Fortis) could benefit as a long-term investor."
Now, all the above adds up to one simple truth - which the proponents of
the Chalillo refuse to accept but which should now be totally evident.
Belizeans! Don't you see? The cost does not matter - only the profit
matters because they are monopoly suppliers! Fortis is not in Belize to
bring Belizeans cheap electricity but to get a high return on their
To them it does not matter what electricity costs at source. They simply
add their 15% to 20% profit on investment and laugh all the way to the bank
in Canada - as their U.S dollars roll in from Belize. Lack of competition
means that they can charge Belizeans exactly what they like!
What Mr. Marshall and Fortis are only too aware of is a very simple
reality: A couhtry's electricity supply, especially if you are the monopoly
supplier, is better than a gilt edged share - come good times or bad times.
So, imagine for a moment that Belize, along with the entire world, is in
for a global recession.
Already interest rates worldwide are at an all time low - with the U.K.
rates actually plunging last week to a 40 year low. According to economists
it could get worse before it gets better. This recession is going to hit
Belize hard - as tourism revenue, primary product exports and investment
decline, and the economy generally begins to collapse.
The last thing Belizeans, and everyone else around the world, will do
though is turn off their lights. Fortis, via BEL as the monopoly supplier,
will continue on their merry way to the bank whatever happens to our
economy. They will take home their 15%, 17%, 18% or whatever, in hard
currency, come hell, high water or recession. They cannot go wrong - even
now if Chalillo does not per-form, and they have to enlarge their
investment to another $100 million.
I have visited Mollejon twice and on both these occasions the reservoir
upstream from the power house was almost full - ready for the water to be
released to flow through the tunnel to the generating turbines at the power
house. The full reservoir
was an impressive sight but so too was the totally dry river between the
reservior and the power house and continuing downstream. There was no Macal
River. It started again lower down, as it met the Rio On, Provision Creek
and other small tributaries flowing in from the Mountain Pine Ridge and the
All of BEL's flow calculations are taken from Mollejon and miles away below
at Cristo Rey. They have never placed a rain gauge in the catchment area.
Why not? Because, they don't care! To BEL and Fortis, the cost of
electricity is not important, because they will recoup their cost at a high
interest rate whatever it costs at source.
Had Mollejon not been built, electricity would today already be some 20 to
30 percent cheaper - by whatever other methods of producing power had been
used. Let BEL answer honestly why they have not placed a rain gauge in the
catchment area? Why also do BEL continue to show nothing but a passing
interest in bagasse energy from cane and other waste?
Why not delay Chalillo for ten years and produce regular and reliable power
during this time from a pine chip burning generator stationed at Augustine?
There are millions of tons of dead pine wood from the devastation caused by
the pine bark beetle that have to be disposed of. Chipping this wood and
burning it at Augustine would give time (at little expense) to solving
Belize's long term energy problems. A delay could also provide time for
input from other energy providers - and so ensure at least a modicum of
REVENUES 2nd Quarter
Newfoundland Power $88,773,000
Belize Eleetricity $18,520000
Newfoundland Power 1,165 GWh
Belize Electricity 67 GWh
BECOL 9 GWh
Belize Total 76 GWh
Revenue per GWh - Revenue divided by GWh.
Newfoundland Power approx. $44.4
Belize total approx. $275.4
Note: Table presented in Canadian dollars.