The Public Utilities Commission has decided that for the next few months, consumers will not have to worry about any consequential increase in light bills.

It's their initial decision for the 2019 Annual Review Proceeding, where the regulator tries to balance the scales by allowing BEL to continue making a reasonable profit, while protecting consumers. 

The PUC's findings are consistent with BEL's request. Even though the cost of power is currently very high and increasing, the power company asked the regulator to keep your bill at the same rates for the time being.

It is estimated that by June 30th, 2019, the high cost of power is likely to exceed 40 million dollars over the amount that the PUC had approved for BEL. Normally, that cost would be passed to you, the consumer, and it would mean a spike in electricity bills. But, BEL believes that it can absorb that cost in the short to medium term, and with their efficiency measures planned over the next few months, they'll be able to recover that excess cost.

The Chairman of the PUC held a press conference to announce why your bill isn't increasing, for now:

John Avery - Chairman, PUC
"This rate review proceeding was initiated April 1st with BEL submission and aside from all the different numbers, BEL made a proposal that the mean electricity rate be kept at 41.38 cents per kilowatt hour. I think what BEL meant to say in their thing is that we should keep the tariffs the same. The mean electricity rate is calculated based on the proposals that are submitted by BEL and approved and accepted by the commission and basically the submission did not accurately support a mean electricity rate of 41.38 cents. In fact, when we did the annual corrections for the last annual tariff period, which was July 1st 2017 to June 20th 2018, when we did those and we included those for recovery in the next annual tariff period, the mean electricity rate was closer to 42 cents. However, the commission made couple slight adjustments, one to the cost of power. It reduced by 1.5 million, the estimated amount that would have been saved if Caye Caulker was connected to the grid. As you all know, from previous rate views starting from the fore tariff review proceedings in 2016, the PUC has encouraged BEL to prioritize the connection of Caye Caulker to the national grid for cost and environmental reasons."

"So what we did was to do an adjust to the cost of power to encourage BEL to speed that project as much as possible. We understand also that there are other parties involved and so BEL cannot move at an independent pace in this regard. When we got that 41.51 cents, that represented a mere .4 percent increase in the mean electricity rate that was approved in December and when you apply that .4 percent across the board to the existing tariffs, the amounts were so insignificant that practically they are no changes in the tariffs. We're projecting that because of the cost of power, which last year was 144 million, we're expecting it to be near 180 million June 30th of this year and when you add up all of that, it is saying that this is not all accurate, some of it are forecast and projections - most of it because we haven't completed the period as yet, but we're looking at BEL may require 265 million to cover all the expenses for this current annual tariff period. We expect that the rates will produce somewhere in the region of 220 to 230 million. So, we expect that when the next rate review is done and this period is reconciled and annual corrections are done, that there will be a significant sum recoverable from customers in favour of BEL."

"BEL has basically asked not to do any corrections for this period with respect to the cost of power. They believe that with the improvements expected with the power supply from Mexico and with other measures that they intend to take on, that they can in fact ride out this period and still be sound financially and hope to recover in the near future. Again, this is similar to what happened in 2012, where the commission at the time had increased rates to above 48 cents and within a year, the rates were back down to somewhere around 40 cents and since then, BEL has maintained a very sound financial position. So, I guess based on past experience, they thought is that we can expect something similar to happen."

So, you heard, the adjustments that the PUC made in this annual review proceeding resulted in a 0.4% increase in the Mean Electricity rates. It is insignificant, and it will not result in any adjustments in the currently approved electricity rates. 

This is only the initial decision, and BEL or 10% of consumers can object - but that is unlikely, so this decision is most likely on the way to being adopted for this Annual Review Proceeding.

Channel 7