PUC addresses BEL outages

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 20            May 29, 2003

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The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a statement on May 20th, regarding the frequent and persistent outages recently experienced by customers of Belize Electricity Limited. According to the PUC, these outages were primarily attributed to "abnormal Transmission and Distribution (T&D) faults and not a capacity deficiency in most instances."

    The release further explained that T&D faults were exacerbated by the intense dry season that produced very dusty conditions and fires countrywide. As a result, dust and soot accumulated on the transmission and distribution infrastructure (insulators, transformers, cables, etc.). When the evening dew mixed with these elements, the result was electrical shorts or "flashovers" which cause sudden "faults" or outages.

    The PUC requested that BEL "increase their vigilance and manpower in these sensitive areas to more effectively respond to the outages." Considering that these outages may cause damage to consumer equipment, the PUC established a procedure with BEL for addressing any compensation claims from affected customers. It reads as follows: "Consumers must first take their claim to BEL. If BEL determines that the claim is authentic, then BEL will either pay (1) for the repair of the damaged equipment or (2) the replacement value (the condition immediately prior to the time of the damage). If BEL does not accept that the claim is authentic, the customer can then take the claim to the PUC. The PUC will establish a team to investigate the claim and determine its validity. If the PUC determines that the claim is authentic, then BEL will compensate the consumer as set out above and also pay the cost of the investigation. If the claim is not valid, the claimant will be requested to pay the cost of the investigation."

    The PUC is presently holding discussions with the Association of Professional Engineers of Belize (APEB) for assistance in the independent investigation of consumer claims.

    On Thursday, May 22nd, BEL held a news conference. BEL Vice President for Business Development Michael Polonio announced that BEL had received good results from hosing down utility poles with water. Polonio stated that until the much-needed rains come, pressure washers would be used to wash insulators. This new equipment can be operated without shutting off the electrical current, eliminating the need for additional power outages.

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