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#344852 - 07/14/09 09:45 PM BEL: Expect More Blackouts
Marty Online   happy
It’s been a record year for BEL: record revenue of $176 million, a near record net loss of $10 million and this weekend it seems like the company was going for another record, a record blackout. It’s going to be tough, they’ve set the bar high, but on Friday night into Saturday morning that record seemed within reach. There was a national power outage at about 11:35 in the night and it wasn’t fully restored until almost 5 am in some areas of the country. On Sunday in Belize City power went out at about 2:30 in the afternoon and came back around 5:23 in the evening.

So what caused it? Well, On Friday night, a ground wire broke away from a pole near the Buena Vista Substation and caused a fault on the transmission line between Mexico and Belize. The outage was extended because the Gas Turbine which usually kicks in to pick up the slack is down for maintenance for two weeks. So BEL had to turn to Belize Aquaculture Limited in the south to get power.

And Sunday’s blackout was caused when a lightning arrestor failed during a lightning storm that passed over Belize City. Then there was a 40 minute outage in the Hattieville area on Sunday night. And this morning at 3:00 power was lost on the Southern Highway and it was not re\stored until 4:30 am. That was due to windblown trees falling across power lines.

A rough spell, but it could get worse in the coming days as Mexico’s CFE have told BEL that on July 15, they may have to take out another one of their large generators for maintenance. This would make an already bad situation worse. It’s bad because as we told you Westlake which is the major diesel plant is out of commission for the time being. So starting on Wednesday the 15th, there could be outages.

Channel 7

#344857 - 07/14/09 10:01 PM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
Bad luck blamed for weekend blackouts

Belizeans suffered a string of unfortunate power outages over the stormy weekend, beginning with the extended blackout that plunged the country into several hours of darkness early on Saturday morning. Sittee River, Stann Creek, has fared off the worst, suffering without power for nearly half a day today.

According to a statement from the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), at 11:35 on Friday night, a ground wire broke away from a pole near the Buena Vista Substation and caused a fault on the 115 kV transmission line between Buena Vista and Maskall, leading to the first major power outage.

The north was brought back on line with Mexican supply by 2:17 a.m. Saturday. San Ignacio and surrounding areas got their power back by 2:10 a.m.; Belmopan and surrounding areas by 3:15 a.m.; and Southern areas and Belize City by 4:10 a.m. Ladyville and San Pedro suffered the longest blackouts and were not restored until after 4:30 Saturday morning.

The other major power outage happened the following afternoon, around 2:30 on Sunday, and lasted for almost three hours.

According to BEL, the power outage was due to a failed lightning arrestor at the Magazine Road Substation and bad weather hindered work crews from doing the necessary repairs more quickly.

Between 8:00 and 8:40 that same night, the power went out again. BEL stated today that, “...there was another weather-related incident at Mile 8 on the Western Highway, which caused an outage to those communities on the Western Highway, from Belize City to Hattieville to Belize River Valley and also those communities from Mile 1 to Mile 3 on the Northern Highway.”

The outages continued today. Power went out this morning at 3:11 for areas along the Southern Highway, from its junction with Hummingbird Highway to Sittee River Village, but was restored by 4:23 a.m., except for Sittee River which had its power back at 2:10 Monday afternoon.

BEL claims that the outage was the result of a tree falling on a power line in Sittee River during an early morning storm in the area.

“Power restoration was delayed because several large trees fell across the access road to the community and assistance was needed to remove the fallen trees,” the company added.

Even as BEL has been reporting a string of mishaps on the national grid over the weekend, the situation has been worsened, BEL claimed, because two local sources are out of service.

One is their gas turbine, which BEL claims is offline for two weeks due to maintenance. The second is Hydro Maya Limited, which the company claims suffered damage due to a mechanical failure.

BEL said that it has been coordinating with Belize Aquaculture Limited (BAL), a local power supplier, to provide additional power supply.

When BEL had warned of short supply from CFE for several months this year, the Public Utilities Commission had called on the National Emergency Organization to intervene to ensure continuous supply of electricity.

Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Emergency Management, Colonel George Lovell, told Amandala this evening that shortly before five this evening, he and BAL officials signed a supplementary power purchase agreement for up to 8 MW of additional power from the local supplier, to provide backup power for the national grid. The agreement, said Lovell, has still not been signed by BEL.

Lovell said that when he met with BEL’s CEO Lynn Young late this evening, following his meeting with BAL, Young informed him that BEL’s directors had not yet approved the agreement.

BEL also said that there are some rotten lines and poles that need to be looked at, said Lovell.

The company reported in today’s statement to the press that as of Wednesday, July 15, one of CFE’s large generators will be down for maintenance.

Col. Lovell advises the public to conserve energy to lower the demand for power.


#344901 - 07/15/09 11:15 AM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
BACONGO on Rates

Fortis wants Belizeans to feel sorry for them.  Fortis with 2008 revenues in the billions and net profits in the hundreds of millions (see www.fortis.ca), this foreign owned Canadian corporation that owns BEL and its sister company, BECOL (Belize Electric Company Limited), says it's not making enough from Belize and that our electricity rates should be higher. 

If things worked the way they should, BEL would buy the least expensive power it could.  However, Fortis (not BEL, but Fortis) makes ITSELF more money by having BEL buy energy from BECOL, which actually operates Chalillo and Mollejon Dams- NOT BEL!   While BEL and its rates are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC),  BECOL is not, regulated so  it can charge BEL anything it wants for the power it sells to BEL.

Here are comparison energy rates to consider, rates from our Central American neighbors and not from Caribbean islands.  These are AVERAGE RESIDENTIAL RATES computed into Belizean cents per kilowatt hour:

 Mexico:        0.12/kw
 Honduras:    0.18/kw 
 Guatemala:  0.40/kw
 Costa Rica:  0.16/kw 
 Nicaragua:   0.28/kw
 Belize:         0.42/kw

In the earlier days of energy analyses in Belize, independent consultants showed that negotiations with CFE, in neighboring Mexico, provided the cheapest, most reliable source of energy.  This assessment was based on long-term contracts for natural gas and diesel fuel, not on purchasing on the spot market.  But, those promoting the dam projects said that “only Chalillo would bring us security".   We doubt that people are feeling very secure right now.

BEL passes on to us what it has to pay BECOL for electricity, INCLUDING  the costs associated with building the dams, whether they function properly or not.  On June 25, 2009,  BECOL'S Stephen Usher stated, on LOVEfm’s “Belize Watch” program that Fortis’ investment in BECOL was three hundred million dollars ($300,000,00).  No one can doubt that amount is included in what they charge for power.

What is also passed on to Belizeans is the lack of any emergency evacuation plan or warning system.  The lives of thousands of people living downstream of the Chalillo Dam will be seriously threatened if the dam breaks or we have a dam-related flood.
And what about earthquakes?  Chalillo is built on an earthquake fault line that Fortis first tried to hide and then later claimed was irrelevant because Belize is not subject to earthquake activity.   
Unfortunately, it seems that Belize IS subject to earthquakes - such as the 7.4 earthquake that hit Honduras and impacted the country on 28 May of this year!   Where is the "responsible voice" of foreign-owned BEL/BECOL on this particular aspect of the Chalillo Dam?  

Belizeans are suspect and seriously concerned about the safety issues surrounding the Chalillo Dam, high-priced energy, high risk dam profile, and degraded natural resources.  This is what foreign-owned BEL and BECOL have provided Belize. 

We continue to applaud the PUC for their steadfast monitoring and regulation of this power company.
The real question we have to ask is why Belizeans keep paying more than anyone else in the region for energy, and the fact that no matter how much you pay, Fortis will want more.  We say Fortis/BEL will never be satisfied, and maybe we are better off without them.

 Submitted by the Belize Alliance of Conservation NGOs (BACONGO) 

#344914 - 07/15/09 12:13 PM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: Marty]
Belizeandme Offline

#344915 - 07/15/09 12:29 PM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: Belizeandme]
shuffles Offline
For a detailed description of the "agreement" about Fortis, etal, read "The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw". Their "agreement" is a real financial mind *(*&, and defies any explanation except to show the real greed of Fortis etal.
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#344917 - 07/15/09 12:47 PM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: shuffles]
collyk Offline
That is an excellent article outlining what all of this is really about. Now they are building yet another dam (VACA), which will no doubt burden Belize with further debt. Shuffle's recommendation to read 'The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw' is spot on. It isn't just about Macaws at all, it is about the corruption and greed of the whole dam and electricity infrastructure we are having to live with right now.
Belize Wedding Photography

#344918 - 07/15/09 12:48 PM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: collyk]
shuffles Offline
I used the word "agreement" lightly. It's more like a raping of the Belizean people in my opinion.
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#344976 - 07/15/09 04:39 PM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: shuffles]
Peter Jones Offline
Part of the Belizean culture.

#345043 - 07/16/09 12:06 AM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: Peter Jones]
Marty Online   happy
PUC comments on current power supply situation

July 15, 2009

The Public Utilities Commission says Belize Electricity Limited may be forced to resort to scheduled rotating power outages in order to continue operation of its electricity system over the next week or two. This is a result of the temporary loss of power supply from Hydro Maya and BEL’s gas turbine, a combined capacity of 23 megawatts and the potential loss of supply from CFE of Mexico, a capacity of 50 megawatts, leaving inadequate power supply capacity available to satisfy the demands for electricity service in Belize. Since being notified of the potential loss of power supply from CFE, the Government and the Belize Electricity Limited have been negotiating with the Mexican Government and CFE to secure some form of power supply. As a result, CFE has since committed to employ all available resources to provide BEL with at least the minimum power supply necessary to maintain operation of their system. The Minister has also entered into an emergency agreement with the Belize Electricity Board and Belize Aquaculture Limited to temporarily supply up to 8 megawatts of excess capacity and energy from BAL’s generation facility. In a press briefing this afternoon, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, John Avery, went in-depth with the situation.

John Avery; Chairman Public Utilities Commission
“If CFE informs us for certain that there will be times when they will not be able to supply us with power, then BEL, if it is for any extended period, would likely be putting out notices telling customers of scheduled outages in their area. In the meantime what we would like to ask of consumers so that we can get through this period, is first to conserve electricity to lessen the demands on the system, like I said, the demand is 74 megawatts roughly, and if there is any way to lessen that, then that could have a direct impact on BEL having to rotate blackouts, or at least it could minimize the areas that would need to be cut off from the system at any time.”

According to Avery, there has been an increase in the direct cost of power. If BEL has to resort to extensive use of the gas turbine, the cost will go up even higher.

John Avery; Chairman Public Utilities Commission
“Even with all of that having lost firm power from Mexico, even though they may have been serving us with economic energy and may continue to do so in a reduced manner for the next few weeks, it is at a higher rate and if we have to go to that gas turbine, that has traditionally been BEL’s most expensive source. So even if we don’t have to resort to rotating blackouts, certainly over the month of May and June since we lost firm power from CFE there has been an increase in the direct cost of power, and if we have to resort to the extensive use of that gas turbine we may have to go higher.”

Avery also asks that consumers lessen their demand for power supply by curtailing electricity consumption as much as possible.

John Avery; Chairman Public Utilities Commission
“CFE has not ruled out the event that they will have to ask BEL to come off their system completely, and by that I mean not separated from the Mexican grid, but by not taking power from Mexico. This means that if that gas turbine remains down, we will have a shortfall of supply capacity in Belize and will have to go to rotating blackouts. But like I said, that situation remains fluid and we do not know from one hour to one hour or day to day what will happen with CFE. The part for the gas turbine has already arrived and the specialized tools that are needed to do the repairs are expected in the country by tomorrow. The minister has already liaised with the Customs Department to expedite the clearance of the tools so that GE technicians can get to work. Even if everything goes willingly, we don’t expect that to be completed within the next week. Perhaps by next weekend we can expect that gas turbine to be up and running.”

The Public Utilities Commission will continue to monitor the situation closely.



P.U.C. prepares for countrywide power outages

Belizeans are on edge on the question of whether there will be countrywide blackouts. And that’s what the Public Utilities Commission attempted to answer at its press conference this afternoon. Consumers use up to 74 megawatts of electricity during peak hours and loss of power from Hydro-Maya, B.E.L.’s gas turbine and Mexico can put the entire country in the dark. And while they are often at odds, today P.U.C. Chairman John Avery outlined the developments that have the country’s power supplier, B.E.L. along with the Government, actively seeking to purchase power from alternative sources other than Mexico.

John Avery, Chairman, Public Utilities Commission
“B.E.L. was asked to remove its turbine from service, which significantly reduced the amount of capacity we have in Belize. Then a week on the 6th of July, C.F.E. informed B.E.L. that a certain plant in Yucatan had to be taken out of service for 5 days to be inspected and depending on that inspection, they may need to take it out of service for another 20 days if any service was required. As a result of that, they informed B.E.L. that during that period they wouldn’t be able to supply power in any form to B.E.L. They intended to start the inspection on the 15th of July, which is today, and if any repairs are necessary they’ll start those I think on the 20th. Then on July 10th Hydro Maya, which is a hydro facility in the southern part of the country, they supply B.E.L. with 3 to 3 ½ megawatts of power. They suffered some mechanical problems on their generating turbine at their facility. So we lost with the B.E.L.’s gas turbine and hydro Maya about 23 to 25 megawatts of capacity in Belize. The potential loss from Mexico is up to 50 megawatts. The customers’ peak demand on B.E.L.’s system is about 73 to 74 megawatts. So as you can see, if we lose Mexico completely with those two local sources out, we would have been short of 18 to 20 megawatts of capacity in country and B.E.L. would have been forced to start load shedding.”

“We have done a little to help the situation, in the sense that the minister has entered into agreement with B.E.L. and Belize Aqua Culture Limited. Belize Aqua Culture Limited at this time has a Power Purchase Agreement to supply B.E.L. with 10 megawatts of capacity and energy, but they have an additional 8 megawatts available, and so the minister has entered into a temporary agreement with B.E.L. and BAL to access that additional 8 megawatts of capacity. Earlier I told you we would have a shortfall of 20 megawatts, and actually this would increase to about 10 to 12 megawatts.”

But despite the additional supply of power from Belize Aquaculture Limited, both B.E.L. and the Government have been negotiating with C.F.E. to provide the country with the minimum power supply. But this means that during this time, the Mexicans may supply some power at a higher rate. B.E.L.’s gas turbine, when the repairs are finished, would also produce electricity at a higher cost. But Avery contends that there is a safety net that might protect utility bills from increasing. Still, Mexico is the country’s largest supplier and if it needs to, it can still pull the plug at any time.

John Avery, Chairman, P.U.C.
“As long as Mexico has to take anybody off their system, we are kinda first in line. They will not have blackouts in their country if they can prevent that by cutting us off. And when I say cut us off, our system, to some extent, needs to be connected to Mexico physically. It’s just that they would instruct us not to take any power from their system. We have absolutely no idea from hour to hour if or when C.F.E. will say listen “you have to stop taking power from us at this time.” They, actually in their first notice, told B.E.L. that “you wouldn’t be getting any power during this period.” It’s only through negotiations that they have come back now and said, “Well, listen, we’ve tried now to be able to give at least the minimum that you will require to keep your system up.” But they are still advising that “We can still call you at anytime and tell you that you need to get off the system.”

“We had made a decision in February, where we had reduced the cost of power component of the rates. B.E.L. made a successful application in the court to put an injunction on that and so the cost of power component of the rates right now is set at the rate we used in June of 2008. At the time, the price of oil was above US$135 a barrel, and so right now the cost of power, the legally enforceable cost, is high. So over the months B.E.L. has been collecting more for power than it has been spending. Based on our last evaluation for the end of May, the net is about $24 million. Even with increased costs it will not necessarily result in any direct increase in rates.”

Avery says that the parts for B.E.L.’s gas turbine have arrived in the country and the G.E. technicians, and if all goes well, the repairs should be completed and the turbine should be back online by the end of next week. And just in, B.E.L. tells News Five that C.F.E. continues to supply 15% of the local energy demand as indicated and can continue to so do at this level. Unless there is a change in this situation with C.F.E., B.E.L. says we do not have to expect rotation outages.

Channel 5

PUC Says "Maybe" To Rolling Blackouts

Will there be extended rolling power outages? Tonight, the best the Public utilities Commission can say is, “maybe.” It’s described as a fluid situation. And that’s because there are two things that military strategists might call, “known unknowns.” The first one is the power supply from CFE in Mexico. That company has major machine problems and earlier this month, it informed BEL that it will have to cut it off. And then there’s the diesel generator at Westlake Park, mile 8 on the western Highway. That’s out of commission and being repaired.

Take those two out of the picture and Belize loses one third of its power supply. That means of the 74 megawatts Belize uses at its peak, only about 55 is secure – the other 18 to 20 is tied up between CFE and Westlake. But Westlake is being repaired; the parts arrive tomorrow, and government has interceded to implore CFE for assistance. That company has revised its position and has agreed to provide a minimum amount of power to keep the system going.

Chairman of the PUC John Avery discussed that development and the overall situation at a press conference today.

John Avery, PUC Chairman
“BEL was informed by CFE that they would be using all their resources to try to supply BEL with at least the minimum amount of power that they require in order to keep all system up and running. However they still have not ruled out the event that they would have to ask BEL at times to come off their system completely and by that I mean not being separated from the Mexican grid but by not taking any power from Mexico in which case as long as that gas turbine remains down, we will have a shortfall of supply capacity in Belize and will have to go to rotating blackouts. However like I said the situation remains fluid. We don’t know from one hour to one hour, day to day what exactly will happen with CFE. We expect that if CFE informs us for certain that there will be periods that they cannot supply us with power, then BEL if it is an extended period would likely be putting out notices telling customers of any schedule for the areas that they live in.

In the meantime, what we would like to ask of consumers of electricity that we can get through this period. First if there is anyway to conserve power, lessen the demand on the system, like I said right now the demand is 74 megawatts roughly. If there is anyway to lessen that then that could have a direct impact on BEL having to rotate blackouts or at least it could minimize the areas that would need to be cut off the system at anytime.

It is something that again everything is fluid. It really depends on what we hear from CFE. If we only lose power say for 15 minutes to half hour then really it will be no different than having a line problem or some scheduled maintenance. But if you’re going to lose the entire supply from Mexico, that is when you have to get into scheduling so that you don’t inconvenience any one group more than the other. But certainly it will be something that would have to rotated as fairly as possible.”

The other significant development is that the Minister of public utilities who is also the NEMO Minister has used his emergency power to hammer out an agreement for BEL to purchase an additional 8 megawatts of power from Belize Aquaculture Limited in southern Belize. BAL presently provides 10 megawatts. Emergency powers were required because the law states that all power purchase agreements must be the product of competitive bidding, but with the present state of crisis, that was waived.

And why was the Chairman of the PUC hosting a press conference about ensuring –as best as possible – a continuous power supply? Isn’t providing power BEL’s business. Well, seems that after taking a public relations banging on all public media, that company is playing a speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil type game and Avery said he felt he needed to step in and clear the air about the outages, stressing that there is no sinister corporate strategy behind it.

John Avery,
“Thing is like I said, there seems to be this mistrust but I don’t think we can operate the regulator and the utility with this air of mistrust and so we decided we have to have this press conference because I was looking at the talk show last night and that seems to be the sentiment that this is some conspiracy and so we felt it was in everyone’s best interest to let people know that we’ve assessed the situation and we have confirmed that yes it is not conspiracy.”

As regards national energy security – that is, the ability to generate all the power Belize needs within its own borders, thus eliminating the reliance on Mexico, Avery said that with the development of the VACA Dam and the BELCOGEN generating facility Belize should have an additional 30 megawatts of power which will make it reliant solely on locally produced power. But because of low costs, Mexico will always be an accessible alternative.

#345062 - 07/16/09 09:00 AM Re: BEL: Expect More Blackouts [Re: Marty]
shuffles Offline
“We had made a decision in February, where we had reduced the cost of power component of the rates. B.E.L. made a successful application in the court to put an injunction on that and so the cost of power component of the rates right now is set at the rate we used in June of 2008. At the time, the price of oil was above US$135 a barrel, and so right now the cost of power, the legally enforceable cost, is high. So over the months B.E.L. has been collecting more for power than it has been spending. Based on our last evaluation for the end of May, the net is about $24 million. Even with increased costs it will not necessarily result in any direct increase in rates.”

Forget the fact that all of us have been overpaying for our power since February, as if that weren't bad enough.

By allowing the BEL monopoly to thrive, GOB continues to bite the hand that feeds them, with consistent emails regarding fear of traveling here due to power outages. Even with $24,000,000.00 extra dollars, BEL is unwilling to correct the siuation, and GOB seems unable or unwilling to demand that the situation is corrected or changed by other methods.

If GOB is able to make an agreement with BAL, then it would seem that the "exclusive" agreement with Fortis is moot. Why then, are alternative sources of power being investigated, no, invited, to provide power.

We cannot survive if we are constantly demanding that our sources of income in Belize are continually being threatened FROM WITHIN, by expecting our guests here to be without power, and with that comes the unavailability of water and the ability to spend money here. Hurricanes and flu are one thing, but self destruction is another.

Even dogs will not crap next to their food bowls.
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