B.E.L.: new Mexican contract won’t change rates
Electricity bills won't increase this year. That's the word out of Belize Electricity Limited tonight following contract renegotiations with our Mexican supplier. According to a company press release issued today, B.E.L. officials met with managers of Comision Federal de Electricidad earlier this month to work out a new agreement for the next two years. This afternoon, Chief Executive Officer Lynn Young explained how water offset the impact of rising fuel costs.

Lynn Young, Chief Executive Officer, B.E.L.
“They had terminated it last year. They gave us notice that it would be terminated this year, August twenty-first. We negotiated a new agreement with them. Back them they had given us indication that they would increase the rates, and they have.”

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
“By fifty-nine percent I understand.”

Lynn Young
“Approximately fifty-nine percent yes.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“How does this increase or will this increase affect consumers?”

Lynn Young
“Well for this year I think things are kind of under control, because we have been having some savings thanks to Challilo. I think that is going to offset for this year the increases in C.F.E. Next year we will depend a lot on what happens with oil prices because the C.F.E. prices are indexed to oil and natural gas, so to a large extent it depends on that. If oil prices stabilize and don’t go too high we might not need to see increases in rates, but if oil prices continue to go up C.F.E. rates will continue to go up. We have reduced the amount we are taking from C.F.E. we reduced it fifteen megawatts from twenty-five megawatts. We have reduced the period to two years in the hope that we could try to do something in the mean time.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“But this decrease will be offset by the amount of supply you are getting presently from Challilo?”

Lynn Young
“Yes between Challilo and Mollejon we are getting now thirty-two megawatts. This year has been a good year with water, so the Challilo dam has been performing better than we expected it to. In terms of energy we are getting out of it. The contract with BECOL is that over a hundred gigawatt hours the price falls to five cents per kilowatt hour plus an over length charge, so that works out to about five and three quarter U.S. cents per hour or eleven cents, eleven and a half cents Belize per kilowatt hour. Last week we hit the hundred mark, so for the rest of the year we will be paying eleven and a half cents per kilowatt hour for power from Challilo.”

In addition to its hydro electric facilities and Mexican power, B.E.L. also serves its more than sixty-nine thousand customers through five diesel plants and more recently, has embarked on alternate energy source initiatives such as the construction of a bagasse powered plant. Belize Cogeneration Energy Limited has experienced delays but work on the ground is slated to begin later this year.

And while that service has been consistent for most of the year, two weekends in a row, much of the country has experienced power outages. Young says the blackouts have been caused by bad weather ... and bad luck.

Lynn Young, Chief Executive Officer, B.E.L.
“Some unfortunate incidents, I think we had one last weekend where a vehicle hit one of the L.V. posts and caused the wire to fly up and go over the one fifteen K.V. line and that knocked out Belize City and Ladyville until we could clear the lines off the one fifteen K.V. The one fifteen K.V. transmission line we cleared that and then we got the system. It was a little bit over an hour. And then we had some storms and stuff in the Ladyville area too. I don’t know if it was a lightning strike but something damaged one of our underground cables. I suspect it might have been from the lightning storms that we had up there. Right now we have some customers in Ladyville out and the guys have been working around the clock to try to put a feed into that area. I think for most of this year we have had excellent reliability. We did a lot of things like line clearing, putting different crimps around the heels of the post and we upgraded the line to Ladyville. We did a lot of work. The outages in the area has reduced a lot, but there is still a lot more work for us to do and we are working on it.”