BEL reminds Caye Caulker Customers to conserve Energy during Peak Hours
Earlier today, representatives of Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) met with key stakeholders in Caye Caulker to provide a status update on the supply of electricity to customers on the island. Questions and concerns were addressed from participants who included representatives of the Caye Caulker Village Council, Belize Tourism Industry Association, Caye Caulker Business Association (CCBA), National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and the media.
Three generation units continue to provide power supply to customers on the island. However, with the onset of the evening peak hours, BEL advises that energy consumption is escalating in Caye Caulker.
The Company reminds customers to practice energy conservation, in particular curtailing the use of air conditioners, to ensure that power supply can be maintained for all customers on the island particularly during the peak hours:
• 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. • 2:00 p.m. to 3:00p.m. • 5:00 p.m. to 10.0 p.m.
The Company will continue to provide regular updates and will hold a follow up meeting with key stakeholders next week.
Re: Caye Caulker Water & Power Interrupted
#539871 01/03/2006:22 AM01/03/2006:22 AM
One year ago on January second, we started the news with the report of five murders on New Year's Day. Tonight, we're very happy to report that the first newscast of 2020 - has no murder stories - not one.
We start, instead, with the story of New Year's frustration on Caye Caulker - where a large potion of the island community started out 2020 in a blackout.
Now, this is after, in our New Years' Eve newscast, when the power company promised reliable services for at least the New Year's Day holiday itself.
A promise broken - and, it couldn't have come at a worse time - the peak of the tourism season.
These power and water failures going back to Christmas Eve have caused a crisis in the tourism industry on the island, and residents are up in arms about it. They planned an impromptu public demonstration for this afternoon, but their thunder may have been stolen somewhat by a public meeting that BEL organized on short notice. Instead of interfacing with their customers through press releases and interviews with the media, BEL's management went out there to speak with the residents face to face.
Our News team was on the island for that 65-minute session, and Daniel Ortiz reports:
At around midday today, senior members of BEL's management faced the angry community of Caye Caulker at the village community center.
They were there to offer an olive branch in the form of full transparency. They came with many answers about what went wrong over the Christmas and New Year's Holidays, and what they intend to do in both the short and medium-term to ensure that these costly power outages become a thing of the past.
But, perhaps the recent interactions with angry and dissatisfied guests, who were demanding full refunds, were fresh on the minds of hoteliers and restaurant owners. So, in certain instances, this community meeting turned into opportunities for residents to openly vent their frustration at the electricity company for the recent power failures on the island.
Caye Caulker Resident 1 "For the past week we have not had steady power, it was our for what 16, 18 hours. Any food that was in those refrigerators are absolute garbage and needs to be thrown out. Restaurants are going through the exact same thing, 4 thousand dollar stocks thrown away because the power has just been off. Power bills have gone up substantially, 20-25 percent in the last year. At my restaurants specifically, it went up from 650 dollars to 1000 dollars a month. So our bills are going up, our loses are mounting and it seems like you guys are putting a band aid on something that needed to be fixed a long time ago. The customer satisfaction on this island right now, is 0, it's absolutely 0. We as the Caye Caulker business association we sent out a questionnaire, we did it quickly last night because we heard you guys were going to be doing this meeting. Just 16 businesses out of the 650 that are here, had losses of 55 thousand dollars Belize. That's just 16 of them."
Caye Caulker Resident 2 "How will you compensate, will you lower our rates? Will you give us a forgiveness their on our electric bill for this month? What will happen? We lost out big time, what will you do to help compensate for our loss?"
Maria Vega - Chair, BTIA Caye Caulker "I don't know if you understand how this business is built up for decades. It is heart breaking, each and every investor, developer and worker in this industry, we defer our special occasions, we defer Christmas, we defer Easter, we defer every special holiday, everybody else enjoys so that we can float this economy."
Caye Caulker Resident 3 "For every large business that lost a lot of revenue and expenses, you have 50 small businesses where those families are planning to pay their school fees, were planning to pay their loans, bills because we have months or months of slow season. The two highest moments in the year have now been devastating. The first one as you described, we could have some compassion, even though it was difficult, but when it happens a second time and again, I know you're just the faces representing a large company but what we feel, is negligence, what we feel that in your heart we believe the 5 of you sitting there understand there needs to have 5 working units coming into the season and when people are saying BEL is lying, part of it is lack of information and lack of transparency."
Dawn Nunez - General Manager, Employee & Corporate Services, BEL "We all agree, you are on point with a good bit with that you have said in terms of the crisis situation, difficulties you all have been facing and indeed when it comes to communication, like the point that was made earlier. We do need to make sure that we are continuously communicating, sometimes we take it for granted."
Hotelier "Every hotel is scared to death with what we dealt with yesterday. I started my morning 41 rooms, 32 people asked for refunds and wanted to leave."
Now that BEL had heard first-hand accounts of the hardships caused by their generations failures, the residents did allow them an opportunity to explain why the community had to suffer for many hours without electricity on New Year's Day.
Mario Vellos - Superintendent, Operations Maintenance Generation "The power went off 3:30 in the morning, we had fire, one of the units caught on fire, the turbo and that's when we started with the issues. We brought up back another unit we had and about 6:30 in the morning we called and told that unit was smoking excessively and it had some mechanical issues. I told them we need to take it off to protect the unit rather than run it like that and lose it, we need to take it off and address the problem and that's when the whole situation started for the new year, at 3:30 in the about."
BEL has a temporary fix for the problem. They want to repair the failing diesel generation unit, retrieve a second that's in-country, and acquire an upgrade that should arrive within 3 to 4 weeks. These will act as backups to the 3 units that are currently supplying the island.
Sean Fuller - General Manager, Commercial & Retail Services "What we've done, over the last week was order the brand new machine for the island. That should be here between 2 to 3 weeks. They're telling us 2 to 3 weeks but we want to say within 3 to 4 weeks. We want to make sure when it gets here, it's been transported out and we get it out here. Between now and then, we have to keep our fingers crossed that these 3 units will continue to be operating as best as possible. We have a private company on the island this morning trying to get that number 4 unit shipped down to determine if we can get a quick solution to that unit instead of having to wait another few months and then there is another 5th unit that is in the Independence area in the country that we're trying to mobilize to get on the island as quickly as possible to give us an additional comfort that in the event we lose one of the 3 units that are operating right now, we'll have that back up. So we totally understand the frustration, we know that the backup plan that we had, has failed us and it has failed us miserably."
"We're totally frustrated with the situation, not as much as you guys are, we totally understand the frustration. So, we're thinking right now, the plan is and the plan is in operation now. The 3 units that are operating will have an additional 3 units on the island to ensure that if we lose any one of the 3 currently operating units, we will have not only one back up, not only two back up, but as much as three back up to those units in the event we have a failure."
There is also a permanent solution in the works as well. BEL wants to connect Caye Caulker to the national grid for more reliable service. That will take 12 to 15 months to implement.
In order to ensure that BEL's island facility can supply customers with continuous electricity access, they are pleading with residents, and business owners to conserve as much power as possible.
A late evening, press release says, quote, " The Company reminds customers to practice energy conservation, in particular curtailing the use of air conditioners, to ensure that power supply can be maintained for all customers on the island particularly during the peak hours [of] 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., [and] 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m." End quote.
They have committed to providing regular updates, and they plan to hold a follow-up meeting with key stakeholders next week.
BWS to Expand Operations on Both Sides of Caye Caulker
Belize Water Services is yet to follow it sister utility’s lead and face the people of Caye Caulker. Representatives of the company were noticeably absent from the island despite there also being a water shortage issue at hand. On Tuesday, B.W.S. was able to restore limited water to its customers and that flow was merely a trickle. While they were not out there today, News Five was able to speak with operations manager Dave Pascascio who shared plans of an expansion project that will also alleviate issues customers are having with potable water on the island.
Utility Exec’s Say Sorry to La Isla Carinosa
For the past 2 nights, we've been showing you the backlash from the Caye Caulker community in response to the critical failures in public utilities on the island. The island village's all important tourism high season was ruined at its peak because the utility companies couldn't keep the island reliably supplied with light and water.
There have been mass cancelations by visitors, and the hoteliers have had to grapple with demands for full refunds. That's only part of the negative effect. The stakeholders are worried that these failures will cause the disgruntled guests to start spreading a bad name for Caye Caulker, which is rated as Belize's top emerging destination.
To try and quell the outrage from the residents and business owners, BEL bit the bullet yesterday and organized a community meeting to take criticisms, and explain themselves.
This morning, the Belize Tourism Board stepped up that effort and organized another stakeholder meeting to demonstrate to islanders that their concerns aren't being ignored at the official level.
They invited the executives from BEL, BWS, the Public Utilities Commission, and the Ministry of Tourism to face Caye Caulker residents. That face-off lasted just over 2 hours, and we have a few highlights - including an apology from the utility executives. Here's what the Tourism Minister and the bosses of both utility companies had to say to the attendees:
Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. - Minister of Tourism "As the person responsible for the entire tourism in this country, I believe that it is my duty, first of all, to express my concern about what happened in Caye Caulker, and apologies really, for what happened. I believe that we could have done much better, but that is past already. So, we're here today to listen to what is being done, what will be the medium-term plans, and what will be the long-term plans."
John Mencias - CEO, BEL "We know this is not the type of occasion we like to come to, where we're reacting to something that happened. I would first like to, again, apologize for the inconvenience and losses by residents of Caye Caulker, and all affiliated business."
"We must admit that we had not been giving Caye Caulker the focus that we need to give it. You will know that for example, up to October 2nd, or before October 2nd of this year, the distribution lines in Caye Caulker were serviced by personnel coming from San Pedro. And many times they had to come in the dead of the night. And you all had to wait to get electricity restored until they came. We have, since October, stationed 2 linemen on the island. And they will be here permanently to assist."
Alvan Haynes - CEO, BWSL "You have not been forgotten, as some people have implied. BWS, on an annual basis, we review our business plan. We put through our capital expenditure forecast. We have just completed a 5-year business plan that was submitted to PUC. Anyone who cared to look in the details of that would have found that in the capital expenditures planned, there were a number of items of fair significance for Caye Caulker. Over the next 10 years, we have put in estimates for about 34 million dollars in capital expenditure for Caye Caulker, with about half of that being in the next 5 years, or within the next 5-year period that we're now coming up upon."
John Avery - Chairman, PUC "The response we've heard from the public in Caye Caulker is that there is this general impression that Caye Caulker is being neglected. And I certainly want to assure the citizens, the business people and everyone out here that that isn't the case."
"I can understand that people wanted an immediate response, and it didn't come. And I can understand the frustration, but to simply assume that Caye Caulker is being neglected is not necessarily a factual statement."
BEL’s Medium Term Plans For Stable Power On Island
From there, each utility company offered the residents of Caye Caulker an explanation of what they're doing to keep the light and water on during the rest of this tourism high season. And what sort of redundancy measures they're putting in place to address any future failures in their systems.
BEL's Chief Executive Officer was up first:
John Mencias - CEO, BEL "You all would know by now, because we've been saying it over and over, that we plan to connect Caye Caulker to the national grid, via a submarine cable that loops through San Pedro. So up to San Pedro is connected to the national grid, and we're going to continue along with the same supply coming over to Caye Caulker. This is now scheduled to be completed, meaning that Caye Caulker should be on the national grid by the end of the first quarter of 2021, which is roughly, no later than 15 months from today."
"We had planned this project, actually, it's interesting, I was planning engineer at the time we first determined that this was a viable and necessary project back in 2008. And the plans then were to start to implement the project somewhere around 2013, 2014. For a number of reasons, the project has been delayed. But, I can assure you that the project will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2021. In combination with the connection by submarine cable of Caye Caulker to the circuit that currently feeds San Pedro, we're going to bolster that circuit with an additional submarine cable coming from the mainland."
So, we've shown you what the BEL CEO had to say about the long-term plant to connect Caye Caulker to the national electricity grid. So, what are they going to do the meet the island's electricity demand for the 15 months leading up to that interconnection? Here's how BEL will keep the island supplied:
John Mencias - CEO, BEL "The growth rate in Caye Caulker has been over 10%. That is huge. The demand is just jumping upon us. In fact, looking at it right now, we have 3 generating units going full blast, and we could barely meet the demand last night. In the past, we could have done that with 2 generating units. So, what we had decided before is that we would order an additional unit, brand new. And that should be in here - now, I want to admit that we had not planned to have it in place by two to three weeks' time. But, we definitely had planned to have it in place before Easter. But now, we have already expedited delivery, and that should be here in 2 to 3 weeks' time, and up and running. But in the meantime, we only have 3 units of the 4 that are in service. There is one that is down, and the timeline for bringing that back into service is either 3 days or 2 to 3 weeks. It's an electrical problem with the rotor, and we have not been able to determine fully. We have technicians working on it right now."
"We have located a gen-set from Aqua Mar, down in Southern Belize and that gen-set be on its way to Caye Caulker this afternoon. It should reach here tonight. However, that's bringing the gen-set to Caye Caulker. We have to now attach that on to the local distribution system. We hope to have that in place by Monday. So, we still have to deal with the weekend load."
"I am unable to promise that we might not have to have some outages - not to the extent that you had the other day - and again, I am depending on the machines to hold up. We have been trying to ensure that we don't overload any of the machines, or even take them near to their limit. So, for example, last night, the 3 machines that we have, together, the peak load that they can hold is about just over 2,000, and last night, we were just under 2,000."
Keeping Water Running On Caye Caulker
Belize Water Service's Limited was up next, and the company's CEO, Alvin Haynes, briefly discussed their plans to restore their reverse osmosis plant's full capacity. Here's what he had to say about that and the water company's plan to try and keep pace with Caye Caulker's rapid growth:
Alvan Haynes - CEO, BWSL "Belize Water Services has been serving Caye Caulker for the last 10 years or so. The plant that we put in place was sized to meet the capacity and the estimated growth for the next 20 years. Obviously, the growth in Caye Caulker has been phenomenal, and we have observed over the last 5 years that the growth in connections and consumption in Caye Caulker has been the highest growth in all the service areas that BWS serves."
"As you're all aware, we have a reverse osmosis water treatment plant, which essentially takes saltwater from an underground well, and pushes it through members to come out with pure water. The fault that we have had recently, is simply that the pump that is needed to push that water at high pressure through those membranes had a fault. The original shaft wore out just before Christmas. The backup shaft that was in stores for about 4 or 5 years is a long, 6-foot plus, 3 quarter-inch diameter metal rod, must have at some point taken a little bend, kick, whatever. So, from the time it was installed, the team realized that there were some odd vibrations from it, but it's a unit that we don't usually expect to change."
"That unit lasted a few days. We had already placed orders for replacement, but those replacements are custom-made, and it was the Christmas Holidays."
"One of the brand new shafts that we have gotten them to rush will land in the country on Tuesday. So, we're crossing our fingers and toes that we're good until at least until that one is in."
"We have also been planning ahead. We have actually put a small containerized 40,000 gallon-a-day plant on the island, ordered all the necessary spares and equipment to get it running. Again, we're planning or the Easter peak. We're also looking at putting another plant to the north in the short-to-medium term. We've been communicating with the minister and area rep about trying to get land on the north, both for water and for a possible future sewage system. I'll talk about sewage in a little bit."
Please be informed that water and electricity are now back to normal on Caye Caulker so come visit our beautiful island and have an amazing time!!
Belize Electricity Limited thanks customers in Caye Caulker for your continued support in using energy sparingly during the peak hours that has resulted in the power supply being continuous for all customers on the island, particularly during the peak hours of 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
We ask that you continue to: • Use less or no air conditioners • Turn off lights and fans when not in the room • Limit use of electric appliances • Do not leave hot water running • Turn thermostat in refrigerators and freezers on medium
Let’s work together to keep the lights on!
Re: Caye Caulker Water & Power Interrupted
#539911 01/05/2005:51 AM01/05/2005:51 AM
Additional locally-sourced generation unit is in Caye Caulker!
BEL informs customers in Caye Caulker that the used generation unit that was sourced from Independence Village to provide additional generation capacity in Caye Caulker arrived on the island today, Saturday, January 4, 2020.
This is a fairly used generation unit but was the only one of sufficient capacity that was readily available in-country. Our teams are currently working to connect it to the Caye Caulker power system with the aim of having the unit operational by Monday, January 6. We will thereafter be able to assess the extent to which we can rely on this unit to help us meet demand until the new generation unit being sourced from abroad can be installed at the power station.
We thank customers in Caye Caulker for your continued support and participation in using energy sparingly during the peak hours. This has helped us to maintain continuous power supply to all customers on the island since Thursday, January 2.
BEL remains committed to providing regular updates as developments continue to take place.
Re: Caye Caulker Water & Power Interrupted
#539918 01/06/2005:01 AM01/06/2005:01 AM
Locally Sourced Generation Unit Now in Operation and Supplying Caye Caulker
Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) advises customers in Caye Caulker that the locally sourced generation unit is now in operation and was successfully connected to the island's power system on Sunday, January 5. 2020.
Since being brought on line, our teams have been monitoring and assessing the unit's generation capacity and will continue to do so during the week to ensure that the unit functions reliably and consistently.
The Company thanks all customers for their understanding and participation in energy conservation since Thursday, January 2. We also acknowledge our dedicated team of employees who have been working tirelessly to ensure that power supply was restored to normal service to Caye Caulker.
BEL remains committed to providing regular updates and plans to hold a follow up meeting with customers in Caye Caulker later this week.
Re: Caye Caulker Water & Power Interrupted
#539935 01/07/2006:18 AM01/07/2006:18 AM
BWS Press Release: Update of Caye Caulker Water Distribution System
Belize Water Services (BWS) has been made aware of incorrect reports in the media of “multi-day” water outages in Caye Caulker with statements such as “Caye Caulker has been without water for the last five days” and “the island has been without water for almost a week”.
BWS hereby clarifies that Monday December 30, 2019 was the only day when the distribution system supply was interrupted for an extended period. The chronology of events is as follows: On Sunday, December 29, 2019, at about 11:00am, the Caye Caulker Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant experienced a shut down due to a broken main drive shaft. Water was rationed from Sunday, December 29, 2019 until about 7:30am the next day, Monday December 30, 2019 when the storage reservoir was completely depleted. The repairs to the plant were completed at about 9:45pm Monday, December 30, 2019, and water was restored immediately in the distribution system. However, due to the storage reservoir having been completely emptied, water was supplied at lower than normal pressure until Thursday January 2, 2020 at about 10:00pm. Unfortunately, due to a major leak near of the larger hotels at about 3:00am in the early morning of Friday January 3, 2020, there was a 1-hour interruption from 3:30am to 4:30am, followed by a slight reduction in supply pressure in order to gain storage for the weekend demand. Full supply at normal pressure was restored that same night, Friday, January 3, 2020, at about 9:00pm. During the period with reduced pressure in the system, from Tuesday, December 31, 2019 through to Friday, January 3, 2020, BWS verified that even at the reduced pressures, water was reaching all customers including those located at the ends of the distribution system at both the southern and northern parts of the island.
Throughout this situation, BWS committed to the very expensive option transporting water in container trucks to the island via barges, in order to bolster the supply. On Monday December 30, 2019 the day of the extended interruption, trucks were used to directly supply storage to a number of customers on the island.
BWS has been providing reliable, high-quality supply of potable water to Caye Caulker since June 2010 and is proud to have played a vital role in the growth and development of the island as a major tourist destination. BWS informs customers and the public that the 15-hour interruption on Monday December 30, 2019 was due to exceptional circumstances. BWS has put in place several measures to ensure that situation of this nature does not recur.
BWS has implemented the following mitigation measures:
• Commissioned an electrical generator to run the plant and the distribution system
• Will commission a mobile 40,000 gallon per day Reverse Osmosis Plant by early February 2020
• Plans to install a larger capacity Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant on North Caye Caulker within the next 2 – 3 years to meet the expected growth in demand.
However, BWS advises hotels and restaurants to utilize a storage tank to assure themselves of a backup supply in case of short unavoidable interruptions. BWS is aware that some customers utilize shallow wells for supply, but advises that the water from these wells does not meet potable standards and should not be interconnected with BWS supply. To assist customers with guidelines for plumbing in such situations, BWS is making the national plumbing codes available by sending copies to our Caye Caulker office for distribution and placing it on our website www.bws.bz for download.
BWS takes this opportunity to express sincere gratitude to all those who assisted during this unfortunate occurrence. BWS extends commendations to our crews who worked tirelessly through extended hours to conduct the necessary repairs to the plant, those who assisted with the transportation and distribution of water and repairs to the distribution system. Special thanks are also extended to the Caye Caulker Village Council, especially the Chairlady who helped to ensure that water was delivered to those in critical need.
Most importantly, BWS extends appreciation to our customers and consumers in Caye Caulker for their patience and understanding exhibited during this period.
Customers are encouraged to report any water supply issues via BWS Toll Free at 0-800-CALL-BWS (0-800-2255-297) or WhatsApp 614-BWSL(614-2975).
Re: Caye Caulker Water & Power Interrupted
#540065 01/14/2012:34 PM01/14/2012:34 PM
The Caye Caulker Chapter of BTIA - update on the recovery process for residents
The Caye Caulker Chapter of BTIA were our guests to update us on the recovery process for residents. They estimate the losses to be around a quarter of a million dollars. Residents are being supported to file claims. They are also working on finding alternative solutions for renewable energy sources. On our couch: Maria Vega - Chapter President, BTIA Buddy Magana Jr. Secretary Akheil Badillo– Treasurer