As we told you last week - your light bill is going up - slightly - starting in July.
The Public Utilities Commission issued its initial decision for BEL's annual review proceeding last week.
It granted BEL a modest increase in the rate per kilowatt hour, but not quite what the utility had asked for.
Today at a press conference, the PUC Chairman explained that one of the main reasons was BEL's slow movement on phasing out diesel generators on Caye Caulker:...
John Avery - Chairman, PUC
"Caye Caulker is currently isolated from the grid, which means that 100% of the power comes from fossil fuel and we've been spending over $3 million dollars a year on diesel for Caye Caulker alone. That helps no one. BEL cannot make any mark up on that and that is the most expensive source of power in the country. Unfortunately, that hasn't been done, we know they did some work on this, however they are not projecting to complete this for some time now. And so, what the commission did is to say, since the rate setting methodology allows it we will apply only 9% return on the acid value for the 2019-2020 period. If the commission is satisfied, or if the commission in its discretion determines that BEL has made satisfactory progress to get this done by the next ERP, then we will put back the rate of return to 10% and reward them properly for the investments they have made. And so, we are hinting to a penalty if you don't and if you do make good progress then we are making a commitment to restoring the rate of return to 10% for that final year. Actually, we are just throwing money into these diesel trucks that come in and continue to operate Caye Caulker on diesel."
According to the PUC - BEL is moving slow o that Caye Caulker project because it is working along with the CDB - which has its own processes.
There are 21 days from May first, 2018 for BEL or anyone to challenge the initial decision.
Why Caye Caulker Can Benefit from B.E.L. Linkup
Residents of Caye Caulker village are powered by diesel generators - one of the few remaining areas in Belize not connected to Belize Electricity Limited's power grid. The Public Utilities Commission is hoping to change that and in the current annual review proceeding rapped the power company's knuckles with a one percent reduction in rate of return to prod them along to connecting the tourist resort. Chairman John Avery says this will significantly reduce costs while not affecting B.E.L.'s revenue base. Meanwhile, Director of Electricity for the P.U.C. Ambrose Tillett says the company cannot afford to wait too long.
John Avery, Chairman, Public Utilities Commission
"We're not telling B.E.L. to get rid of the diesel plants. It probably makes sense to keep those out there. San Pedro has some diesel plants - you never know if a boat might come and root up that submarine cable that goes out there; so that plant will still be there. It's the diesel costs that I'm talking about. There will be lower operational expenditure, because you're not operating the plant and you'll be extending the life of the plant too. But it's the diesel really; we're spending over three million on diesel alone, just for Caye Caulker. Now, if B.E.L. has to invest eight, nine million dollars to interconnect them, and now you're getting the mix of the different sources of power which would save you about thirty cents per kilowatt-hour. So B.E.L. would get its return, depreciation on the asset, about one, maybe one point two million a year - that's for their pocket; consumers would save about three million, so in effect the net savings would be somewhere between one and a half to two million per year. A project like that would pay back for itself in four or five years."
Ambrose Tillett, Director of Electricity, Public Utilities Commission
"The study for Caye Caulker is being done under a project which is being funded by the C.D.B. And their defense as to why the delay has occurred is related to some of the safeguards, procedures and measures that C.D.B. is requiring in terms of doing that complete study. My communication to them is that as an officer of the Commission, it's clear the Commission feels that B.E.L. should have prioritized this. And my indication to them is [if] C.D.B. is going to hold up this project, then B.E.L. needs to make a decision. I can't tell B.E.L. what to do. But the Commission has made a decision; now they have to make a decision as to whether they do it separately, outside of the C.D.B. project, or whether they continue with the C.D.B. project being financed and under the different criteria that the C.D.B. requires, based on this decision that the Commission has now made."