REPORT #371 August 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

The recent public announcement in the media of Fortis CEO, about the re-application to build a new dam ( called Chalillo) for electrical production in the Cayo District in around a year's time, after the proper studies are completed is interesting. ( water studies, environmental, etc.)

BEL is no longer a state monopoly! Notwithstanding the amateurish bungling mistakes made by earlier administrations and politicians who might still be in the Cabinet today on the Mollejon Hydro dam construction project when BEL was a state monopoly; are the citizen/voter/consumers of Belize obligated in any way, to make up for those mistakes financially on behalf of the bungling misjudgements of earlier politicians? Admittedly, those individuals who miscalculated and did poor negotiations in the political system would like to rectify their honor, with the new owners of BEL and let them recoup their losses at the expense of the Belizean taxpayer. But should the Belizean taxpayer be held captive and financially responsible? There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

Presuming that a new hydro dam gets approval after the studies are done and all the pros and cons are weighed, this would be a new private electrical production project with some government participation. But the electricity would be going to BEL which is also a private for profit company now. I'm not sure who owns the transmission grid for electricity? The question that arises in my mind is; notwithstanding that BEL is also owned by FORTIS and that FORTIS wants to increase it's electrical producing capacity for serving the Belizean market and for PROFIT. Would FORTIS if given permission to build another hydro dam, be constrained by the same requirements and formula for sale of that electricity, to itself as shareholders of BEL, as would a co-generation BAGASSE plant in Orange Walk by BSI, or Del Oro and a co-generation plant using citrus waste in Pomona Valley, or any other new private electrical investor producer? It is my understanding, not yet confirmed by legislation, that there exists a formula by which the government has set the sale of electricity by private producers to BEL of the price being slightly below whatever the cheapest electrical rate can be obtained. Currently believed to be off-peak time, for Chetumal electricity sold from Mexico to BEL a private company.

Common sense tells me that if a new hydro dam is built by FORTIS, or even masquerading as BEL, that as a NEW enterprise to produce electricity, that such electricity would have to meet the same formula pricing as any other private investment enterprise in Belize? It becomes confusing and entangled when you consider the political interest of bumbling negotiators of past years to do with BEL still in government, the government itself representing the interests of the Belizean voter/consumer/citizen, and fairness of law to all new electrical producing investments in Belize by anybody, now that electrical production is a PRIVATE FOR PROFIT enterprise system.

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