New Year, Higher BEL rates!

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 1            January 5, 2006

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On December 31st, 2005 the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a press release stating that the Threshold Event Review Proceeding (TERP) for the Belize Electricity has concluded and have made the final decision to increase the Mean Electricity rates (MER).

   According to the release, the PUC made public the decision that it has approved a 13% average rate increase for BEL that will become effective January 1st, 2006. The increase in the Mean Electricity Rate (MER) is a result of the recovery of cost of power deferrals into the Cost of Power Rate Stabilization Account (CPRSA) and also because of the increase in the unit reference cost of power to reflect updated forecasts. As a result, the average charge per kilowatt-hour now increases from 39 cents to 44.1 cents. And while the rate increase is one issue, the service charges have also been increased significantly across the board, going up from 33 to 100 percent. The press release also shows a breakdown on the different charges for the different sectors, here is a look at the respective increases. Consumers who use less than 50-kilowatt hours per month on the social rate, will see only a one cent increase in the kilowatt charges as it jumped from $0.25 to $0.26. Residential customers will receive the hardest hit as the monthly service charge went up 100 percent from five to ten dollars, and the first fifty kilowatts they use will cost 16% more, which jumped from $0.25 to $0.29. The rate from 51 to 200 kilowatts will go up 8%, from $0.38 to $0.41 and usage above 200 kilowatts will increase by 10% from $0.42 to $0.46. The commercial customers will also see a significant increase in service charge as it has increased from $70 to $100, which is equivalent to 42 percent more. For those customers, usage rates will also increase in every category, customers who use up to 10,000kWh per month will see an increase jump from $0.41 to $0.44. Commercial customers who use 10,000 to 20,000kWh will see an increase from $0.39 to $0.43 and above 20,000kWh will take a jump from $0.37 to $0.42. There are also rate increases for BELís industrial customers and for government which pays for streets lights.

   Now the question is; how will this affect the sectors and nation in a whole? BEL serves close to 70,000 customers, and most are in the commercial and residential brackets, while far fewer are in the social and industrial brackets. In November, BEL asked for a 14% increase to put money back into the rate stabilization account, which, due to the rising cost of fuel has accumulated a $26 million deficit. Now with this increase, BEL and the PUC hope to replenish it over the next four years, assuming that the world fuel prices remains relatively stable.

   One thing is certain, Belizeans will see the effects of the increase on their bills at the end of this month. The public is advised that the rate increase went into effect on January 1st and the public is asked to take notice of the respective increases.
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