The Public Utilities Commission is
best known for its role as a
regulator of monopoly
industries...but it also has a
lesser-known function as a
promoter and planner. Today the
P.U.C. sponsored a meeting in
Belize City with the objective of
expanding our energy horizons. Patrick Jones reports.
Patrick Jones, Reporting
For years, the sugar cane industry has been an important
contributor to the country's economy. But with falling world
prices and disappearing preferential markets, Belize is faced
with the daunting task of finding alternative uses for the
sweet stuff grown in abundance in the north. While the
production of electricity from bagasse is seen as one
alternative, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission Dr.
Gilbert Canton says another possibility is to turn sugar cane
into a fuel for automobiles.
Dr. Gilbert Canton, Chairman, P.U.C.
"It's part of a project that we've been implementing for the
last year called the National Energy Plan Project, with a
sector diagnostic and policy recommendations. It has been
completed and during that implementation, the subject of
ethanol as an alternative to sugar production and also its use
in the energy field in Belize and for export was always
The deliberations extended to a one-day feasibility seminar,
where participants from the public and private sectors sat
down to discuss the way forward. According to Brazilian
consultant Julio Borges, Belize has all the right ingredients to
make the switch.
Julio Borges, Director, JOB Economics and Planning
"Belize has molasses, you have been exporting molasses.
Molasses has a low value added price, so the best thing to
do with molasses is to produce alcohol and export alcohol at
international prices. It will give better profits for your sugar
But the idea of turning sugar cane into ethanol has been tried
before in the late 8's. If the Jamaican company Petrojam
could not achieve economic viability, why is the P.U.C. so
excited about the chances for success now?
Dr. Gilbert Canton
"But it seems now that the environment for it to occur in
seems to be a lot more enabling at this point in time. So
what we're hoping to do is look at it. This is no way a
definitive statement that's going to come out of here today,
but just a meeting of the minds, a brainstorming, a
discussion, and then from there we'll see how we move
Borges says one way of getting people to jump on the
ethanol bandwagon is to show them how it will impact their
"You can use this alcohol in blend with your gasoline.
Instead of importing gasoline, you have been spending some
money in gasoline imports. So you can substitute at a
competitive basis and also the excess you can export to the
"It's good for environment, it's good for employment, it's
good for stabilizing the economy in rural areas. And the
performance of the vehicle, the performance of the vehicle
is better when they use ethanol."
Patrick Jones, for News 5.
Borges estimates that it would take no more than
fifteen percent of the initial investment in the sugar
factory to build the annexed distillery to produce
ethanol. Last year the sale of sugar and related
products earned revenues of close to eighty-nine
million dollars. Projections for this season are for
around one million dollars lower.