PUCís dancing with the BEL wolf! Excellent!
Posted: 04/05/2007 - 11:02 AM
Author: Adele Ramos
A month ago the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) applied to
the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) asking for an
increase in electricity rates, but a concurrent elimination
of the $10 service charge from the bills of most
residential customers. BEL also asked the PUC to increase
the reconnection fee from $10 to $25 for residential
customers, as well as to apply punitive charges for
customers who tamper with their meters or steal power from
Today the PUC notified the media that it had made an
initial decision on the application, indicating that it has
approved tariff increases for industrial customers, but
disapproved BELís requests to have electricity rates
increase for residential and commercial customers, and for
increases in reconnection charges and punitive charges for
tampering and power theft.
But thereís something else. Remember that announcement the
Prime Minister, Hon. Said Musa, made in his budget speech
of March 2, 2007, that the $10 service charge will be
removed? BEL applied to have the charge removed, and to
have a $5 service charge levied only on flat rate
customers. However, in the PUCís decision, which we
downloaded from their website today, the PUC says that
there will continue to be a service charge of $5 applied to
your residential light bill.
The upshot is that at least residential and commercial
customers would see a slight $5 reduction in their light
bills, but some consumers have argued that BEL could very
well afford to lower rates, rather than seeking even more
That is because its latest financial report shows that for
2006, the companyís profits have increased nearly 40% -
from $18.8 million in 2005, to $26 million this year.
Revenues from the sale of electricity have increased,
according to the companyís audited financials, from $120.5
million to $149.6 million. Shareholders will pay themselves
$11 million in 2006.
At the time of this writing we cannot explain why the PUC
has decided to reduce the service charge from $10 to $5
rather than eliminating it from residential bills
altogether, as the Prime Minister pledged two months ago;
it is even more puzzling, in light of BELís own request to
have the service charge completely removed from all but
flat rate customers.