PUCís Picks The Energy Future

What's the energy future of Belize? Will it be hydro, solar, wind power or co generation? For months, BEL has been working on the report coming out of their request for power. Many proposals were submitted - but only the best made it to the second phase, which is evaluation and selection. These proposals were rigorously analyzed and selected to enter into negotiations with BEL. Which ones made the cut? That was announced today at a two hour press conference hosted by the PUC in Belize City. Chairman John Avery gave the big decision at the one hour mark:..

John Avery - Chairman PUC
"We are recommending that BEL go to negotiations with respect to 4 bidders, with respect to 5 projects for the firm capacity requirements and with one bidder for the intermittent capacity. Again, the intermittent, the bidder selected is BAPCOL (Blair Atoll Power Company Limited) and the for the firm capacity, its GSR, SREL, with respect to Challilo 2 and upper Swasey, Santender (SS Energy) with respect to their co-generation project and BAPCOl with respect to their existing generator."

Their projects will cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars and will take years to develop. The first one to come online will likely be from the Green Tropics Santander Group which will do co-generation with their sugar mill.

And while the big decision was announced, we wondered about a smaller decision; to move the date of this press conference from a date right before municipal elections to right after it. Chairman Avery told us, straight up, it was a political decision:..

Jules Vasquez
"Whenever events are postponed, to right before an election, to right after and election, immediately we become concerned. Immediately, it raises suspicions, I should say and the second question from that arises, we know there are powerful interest and players who have expressed interest in the energy future of Belize. So, I was wondering, is there a specific reason why the date was moved from February 26th to March 6th?"

John Avery - Chairman PUC
"Jules, quite simply, it was moved because of the elections. WE believe that we didn't want and as we've seen in Belize, particular close to elections, we tend to politicize things and we really believe it would have been a real dis-service to all the consumers, to BEL, to all the bidders and to every stakeholders for the electricity sector, to have such a serious event, such a serious matter as this, and considering all that has gone into it, to have it cheaply politicize, I will say it was the CEO in the ministry that ask that we reconsider the date for issuing the report. We took that into consideration and like I said, when we look at all the effort that was put into it, we really didn't want any politics to cheapen what the men on the ground put into this project."

Jules Vasquez
"Was there any point that which the powers that be became apprised of the findings of the report and urge, perhaps members of the PUC, not yourself. But we know that members of the PUC are appointed by the Prime Minister and perhaps urge members of the PUC that, hey, we really need to look at X project because X players are involved and it is significant beyond just energy issues. It is significant for other axillary issues."

John Avery - Chairman PUC
"Let me say, Jules, that at no point did the PUC or any member of the PUC, whether it's on staff or on the commission, were engaged in any discussion with the Prime Minister involving this RFP. The Prime Minister on I think two occasions, inquired as to when the report would be expected. Once in last year and once about two months ago."

Jules Vasquez
"What we are seeing here is it in fact the product of the deliberations made solely from an engineering perspective, or were there other exogenous considerations?"

John Avery - Chairman PUC
"Jules, of course there are issues that cannot be discussed here, because those are matters that may become points for negotiations. Certainly, some of these projects we may believe that there is considerable grounds to negotiate a better price. This RFP, basically favors co-generation projects. The reason being that co-generation projects tend to have wider economic benefits, creates more jobs - that's sort of thing. So, yes we consider those and like I said, it's not just the engineering and the cost benefits analysis, because if we go solely on that, the lower Swasey would remain in the recommended projects at this time. However, we believe that there is much more potential in Belize for co-generation."

Channel 7