Belize is using more energy than ever before, but we're also buying a lot of it from Mexico at a high rate. So in the push for energy self-sufficiency, the public utilities commission put out a request for proposals – asking for proposals on how Belize can inexpensively generate more of its own power – 75 megawatts to be exact.
The request went out in October of last year and after 8 months of accepting offers, 20 bids were officially tendered for consideration. The interested companies were invited to send representatives to witness the PUC's announcement of the proposals which will be considered.
7News attended at BEL's headquarters today, and we asked Chairman John Avery about those bids which have come forward:
John Avery - Chairman. PUC
"Between the PUC, the Ministry, and BEL, we're conducting what we dub as RFPEG Belize 2013, that is a request for proposal for electricity generation. We started that process in October of last year, and now, we are at the stages where we are opening bids receive. We receive a total of 20 bids, to satisfy our request for 60 megawatts of firm capacity to be added to the system, and some 15 megawatts of renewable energy from intermittent sources, being solar. We received twenty bids, a couple for hydro projects, a couple for biomass projects, a few of them for thermal projects, burning gas or diesel or heavy fuel oil and of course the rest then were mainly for solar. The 60 megawatts is the total capacity we intend to add to the system, but that is over a period of about 10 years. Some of these projects take years to get off the ground. So, we're doing this thing ahead of time. We're not just looking at what we need immediately, but perhaps what will satisfy us for the next 10 or 15 years. So, we intend not to add all 60 megawatts at once. We intend to add them in increments of 20 megawatts in 2 or 3 year intervals. The fifteen megawatts for solar, we intend to start adding that immediately, starting off with perhaps eight or ten and then gradually going up to fifteen. But certainly the amount we ask for is intended to satisfy our needs for at least the next fifteen years. While we want to be self-sufficient, in term of energy generation we rely on Mexico for more than that. So the idea is not to rid ourselves of Mexico per se, but strictly to become more self-sufficient, get better prices but we still believe there is benefit and there is value in being inter-connected to Mexico."
As you heard, Avery wasn't able to discuss in detail those different bids, because it was the first time that the PUC, Government and BEL were reviewing them.
Well, one of those bids comes from Cohune Energy Limited, and the representative of the company told us why their proposal is attractive, and how it would work if their bid is accepted. Believe it or not, the company wants to use Cohune oil to generate your electricity:
Rudolph Castillo – Representative, Cohune Energy Limited
"This is not just a power plant project that will generate electricity. It will in addition create three new industries in Belize; jobs, foreign exchange, including a cohune industry, a thirty-thousand acre plantation. We will be creating a bio-fuel industry, mixing the cohune oil with bio-fuels, and also we'll be exporting the cohune oil both as edible oils and as cosmetic oils. It will really push our economy in the direction it needs to go. Cohune has been around and tested for a hundred years in Belize. There've been about twenty or more projects that have started in Belize with mega investments as well, not as big as this one - but basically the shortfall has been that they have relied on the existing cohune in the wild. We think that planting it will solve the supply issue. In addition we are fully invested in the equipment that will bring cohune to the forefront of energy in Belize. I think that we have the capacity to even start exporting energy through cohune."
Hipolito Novelo - Love News
"For some, they might say your idea is too farfetched."
"In what way?"
"Because you're dealing with agriculture, it's something brand new. You say you have your research on it. It's never been tested here in Belize to provide that large a scale."
"Cohune, as you know grows pretty much all over Belize naturally. Now, we have acquired the expertise of universities in Europe, in Florida, as well as the fact that cohune is one of the roughest and toughest trees in Belize. It's hurricane resistant. It's almost fire-resistant as well. There's no tree like that in Belize probably, you know, where it can withstand pretty much any exogenous shock that would potentially put the project at risk."
John Avery told the media that all 20 bids will be evaluated for about 3 months. Whichever company's proposal is accepted, they will then enter into a contractual arrangement with BEL for the purchase of that energy, which will then be sold to consumers. Avery estimates that the negotiations on those accepted bids may go all the way up to the end of December. After that, there will be push to try to get some of that additional energy into the national grid by next year. The total amount is expected to trickle in within the next 10 years.