PUC rejects BEL proposed rate increase

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 14            April 3, 2008

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On Thursday, March 13th, Belize Electricity Limited wrote to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) for a proposed rate increase of 15% in electricity rate. That, of course, opened a can of worms and Belizeans swarmed the airwaves pleading to the government and the PUC to reject yet another increase. Those outcries were registered to the PUC in all forms, from personal letters from different departments and organizations, to emails and even included a statement by Parliamentarians Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde. In total 190 objections were sent to the PUC.

    But, after a comprehensive review, the PUC wrote to the BEL on Friday, March 28th informing them that they rejected the proposals included in the TERP. The PUC says BEL can meet its financial obligations and it can manage its cash flow by reducing spending. The PUC says that the figures show that BEL’s profit has increased 100% in the past four years: up from 15.8 million in 2004, to a projected $30 million in 2007.

    The TERP process has no room for review so BEL’s application was rejected and customers can expect their rate to remain unchanged. But BEL is not happy with that decision and they are now preparing their ARP or Annual Review Proceeding, which will be handed in.

    And, while the PUC has rejected the 15% rate increase, BEL says they are being threatened by increasing world fuel prices. In a release on Monday, March 31st, BEL warns that, quote: “unless oil prices start to fall, BEL will not be able to meet its financial needs in 2008 and the company’s ability to supply power reliably will be compromised.”

    BEL says they are presently borrowing money to meet the cost of power but that can’t continue and if it does the company says it will not be able to meet its financial requirements. In the release, BEL says that the only way they can sustainable solve the problem of escalating oil prices is to diversify away from oil dependent sources of power. BEL says that they will continue to work closely with the Government of Belize in efforts to achieve this goal.

    BEL and the PUC now enter another round of negotiations with the Annual Review Process – or ARP which started as of press time, Wednesday, March 2nd. It is left to see how the second round of negotiations will end up but what we do know is that the current Barrow administration promised during their election campaign that they will reduce the cost of utility including electricity.

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