PM Beats Chest Over New Electricity Rates; Country Falls Into Blackout
And the Prime Minister was the one left to have his "good time" with the announcement of the new proposed electricity rates.
Sure, the news already came out last night - but bringing it to the house today as a special statement gave the Prime Minister a chance to once again boast about the benefits of nationalization - since the formerly FORTIS owned BEL wanted an increase in rates:..
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"But Mr. Speaker, this slashing of electricity bills to all consumers is an unprecedented historical achievement. The jewel in the crown of government's sparkling panoply of pro people initiatives."
"Mr. Speaker every sector of the public of the economy will benefit. The PUC's decision adds over 1,000 persons to the list of those that pay only a social rate for their electricity consumption. That social rate is currently an already low 26cents per kilowatt hour as opposed to the average of about 40 cents per kilowatt hour that the regular residential consumer pays. But that 26 cent social rate will go down even further now to 24 cents. And, as I said, the number of around 7,000 or so persons that pay only the social rate will increase to 8,000 persons."
"None of this would have been possible were it not for the bold history-making decision of the UDP to nationalize BEL. It is the case, Mr. Speaker, that the former owners of BEL were never going to give us any reduction. In fact they tied up us in court and got injunctions to block any possibility of lower rates. Not only were they never going to take our light bills down, in fact and to the contrary they were determined and demanded to actually increase our rates, and in a major punitive way."
And wouldn't you know it, not too long after the PM finished his chest-pounding over the new electricity rates - the nation was plunged into a countrywide blackout. It went so long that the house meeting had to be suspended for over an hour to wait for the power to come back.
In a press release issued this evening, BEL says several intermittent power outages between noon and four pm were caused by what's called a ground fault. That occurs when there is an accidental or intentional contact between a transmission line and the ground - the result of either a failed insulator, contact with trees or other foreign objects.
Intermittent outages started in the Cayo and Belize Districts and then the countrywide power outage started shortly after 1:00, and the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts were not fully restored until after 4:00.
But that's not the end for electricity, later on, we'll have an interview with the Chairman of the PUC John Avery to discuss how his regulatory body arrived at the 6.14% proposed decrease in rates.