PUC approves BEL rate increase

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 29            July 21, 2005

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On March 2nd, 2005, Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) submitted proposals for the regulation of values, tariffs and other fees to the Public Utilities Commission. Since then, the idea of having the rates raised per kilowatt hour has been in the works. Finally, the PUC came up with a decision and approved the proposal for the annual Tariff Period July 1st, 2005 to June 30th, 2006.

    As a result, the Mean Electricity Rate (MER) has been approved at $0.39/kwh (Kilowatt hour). This means that if you notice your bills accumulating to more than you are used to, it is because of the added increase. The public is certainly not happy with this increase and BEL is not either. BEL’s proposal was for the mean rate to be approved to $0.40 per kilowatt hour and they were one cent short.

    In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Chief Executive Officer, Lyn Young explained why BEL was disappointed in the decision made by the PUC. “We are disappointed because the PUC did not follow the consultant’s recommendations and took the suggestions we made into account.” He further explained that, “the process was a very frustrating one and BEL will look into reviewing the documents and figuring out what impact it will make towards the company and the country.”

    BEL proposed an average rate increase in the Mean Electricity Rate of approximately 14%. The company’s submission also includes proposals for quality of service standards and measurement parameters, a mechanism to recover the current balances in the Rate Stabilization Accounts and to manage future flows into the Accounts, a discount for early payment of bills, the discontinuation of charges to customers for line extensions within established and approved service areas meeting certain parameters, and future system expansions and reliability improvement projects.

    BEL’s major concern is that the expenses are always on the increase that being the reason for their asking for a $0.40 increases in the mean electricity rate but they are willing to look into reviewing the documents in order to make ends meet. Young explained, “We recognize the challenges the increases present our customers and the high expectations of our customers with respect to the reliability of our service. The adjustment will help us to maintain and improve our services.”

    In a recent press release, Corporate Communications Manager for BEL Dawn Simpson explains that with this new tariff structure now in place, “Plans are underway to expedite several reliability improvement projects aimed at further reducing outages and improving service.” BEL’s long-term generation plan is also to reduce dependence on oil-sourced power. BEL is now working along with Belize Electric Company Limited, Hydro Maya Limited and Belize Sugar Industries Limited to bring on-line sources such as the Chalillo Hydroelectric project, the Hydro Maya project and the Cogeneration project, which will help to mitigate the effects of oil prices.

    Now with this increase, the BEL’s rates are as follows; social rate customers will pay a flat rate of $4.25 per kilowatt hour up to 50 kilowatt hours. Residential customers will pay a monthly service charge rate of $5.38 for usage between 51 and 200 kilowatt hours and 42 cents for anything above that. Commercial customers will pay a monthly service charge of $70. The consumption of up to 10,000 kilowatt hours will be billed at 41 cents anything above that up to 20,000 kilowatt hours will be for 39 cents and above that will be for 37 cents. The public is advised to take notice of the increases.

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