Time is running out for Belize Electricity Limited as its arrangement with the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (C.F.E.) of Mexico, which supplies about seventy percent of the country with power, is maxed out. Massive and rolling blackouts can arise if B.E.L. is unable to make regular payments to keep its eight million dollar debt to CFE below the credit limit and Prime Minister Dean Barrow says that B.E.L. will have to handle its own affairs. On Friday, B.E.L.’s C.E.O., Lynn Young said that the company had about ten to twelve days before it needs to come up with more cash. B.E.L. was previously getting thirty-three percent of its power supply from Mexico and the bulk of power from at least four other suppliers including Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL), Belize Cogeneration Energy Limited (BELCOGEN) Hydro Maya, Belize Aquaculture Limited and a small portion from B.E.L.’s diesel generators. The construction of BECOL’s VACA and Chalillo Dams and the sugar industry’s BELCOGEN were once seen as the only way to wean the country off Mexico’s power grid. So what happened to make the country dependent once more on Mexico? That’s what we asked B.E.L.’s C.E.O. in a sit-down with News Five.
Lynn Young, C.E.O., B.E.L.
“Last year, for the whole year, in previous years we use to get about sixty percent from CFE for the whole year. Last year, it dropped to about thirty-five percent with the addition of the Vaca Hydro plant BAL that had come online and of course BELCOGEN. So far this year, we’ve had a lot of bad luck. BAL hasn’t been able to produce because one; they couldn’t get good fuel. They were getting fuel from Blue Sky and then Blue Sky went out of business and they had issues there and they have been trying to get affordable fuel. So far I think they are still trying to do that, but the plant hasn’t been operating. And we’ve been talking to them to try to see if we can get the plant operating again. But their price right now would be even more than CFE because they are using pure…So that wouldn’t really help us as far as the financial part goes. BELCOGEN was supposed to give us about one hundred and five giga watt hours which is one hundred and five million kilowatt hours a year. They haven’t been giving us that much. Last year we got less than fifty percent of that from there and this year it has been really bad because of all the issues they’ve been having. Now the price form BELCOGEN is almost half of Mexico has been charging us recently. Similarly with the hydro; the hydro is very cheap compared to Mexico or BAL for example or if we were to generate with diesel. But as luck would have it, we are having one of the driest dry seasons that we’ve ever had. Because of the problems with BELCOGEN, we ended up running down the reservoir from the Hydro much faster than we wanted to. So we have to keep a certain amount of water in the reservoir for emergencies. And so we’ve been taking for this first part of the year about seventy percent of our power from Mexico.”