20 companies bid to provide energy to the national grid

Local and international representatives of prospective energy suppliers converged on the conference room at Belize Electricity Limited today. The occasion, hosted by the Public Utilities Commission, was the formal opening of bids to supply sixty megawatts of firm energy and fifteen megawatts of renewable energy from solar or wind projects to Belize's energy grid. Mike Rudon was at B.E.L. this morning and has the story.

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Twenty two bids were submitted in response to what is known as RFPEG Belize 2013 - a request for proposals for electricity generation. Two unopened bids were disqualified because they were incomplete, and twenty bids were opened this morning in front of the representatives who submitted them.

John Avery, Chairman, P.U.C.

John Avery

"We received twenty bids, a couple for hydro projects, a couple for biomass projects, a few of them for thermal projects, burning gas or diesel or heavy fuel oil and of course the rest then were mainly for solar. I think we had one bid for a wind generation facility."

The selected proposal and energy generation project will serve a long term capacity expansion plan rather than an immediate need.

John Avery

"Some of these projects take years to get off the ground, so we're doing this thing ahead of time. We're not just looking at what we need immediately, but perhaps what will satisfy us for the next ten or fifteen years. And so we intend not to add all sixty megawatts at once. We intend to add them in increments somewhere around twenty megawatts at two or three year intervals. The fifteen megawatts for solar, we intend to start adding that immediately, starting off with perhaps eight or ten and then gradually going up to fifteen. But certainly the amount we ask for is intended to satisfy our needs for at least the next fifteen years."

One of the catalysts jumpstarting this process to seek bids for expanding B.E.L.'s capacity was the high cost of getting energy from Mexico in 2012. But Avery says the intention is not to bid Mexico adieu…at least not totally.

John Avery

"It should be every country's desire and objective to become energy efficient. We benefit a lot from being interconnected with Mexico, not only from the opportunity to purchase power from them, but by being interconnected with them that offers us a lot of stability with our system. Our system is fairly small and so when we have transitional issues on our system it would collapse, but because we are connected with Mexico they absorb some of the issues we have. And so while we want to be self-sufficient in terms of energy generation, we rely on Mexico for more than that. So the idea is not to rid ourselves of Mexico per se, but strictly to become more self-sufficient, get better prices but we still believe there is benefit and there is value in being inter-connected to Mexico and to keep that going we believe that we need to purchase some power from them."

In seeking the bids, there were no limitations on the size or type of project - just that it could meet the needs specified by B.E.L. Mike Rudon for News Five.

According to Avery, they expect that to meet the needs specified by B.E.L., projects could cost in the region of two hundred to four hundred million dollars. The successful company will need to bear the full cost.

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