A significant event happened in San Pedro on Wednesday, December 23rd, 1998. The inaugural ceremony for the commissioning of the submarine power line interconnection between the mainland at Bomba, Maskall and San Pedro, Ambergris Caye took place. The San Pedro Sun was present for this historic occasion. At the formal ceremony Mr. Louis Lue, Chief Executive Officer of Belize Electricity Limited gave the official welcome address and briefed the gathering about the new project. San Pedro's electricity is now being supplied from Belize's National Power Grid that is now interconnected with the huge Mexican Power Grid operated by Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE). Belize's National Power Grid, therefore, now receives power and energy from three sources: CFE of Mexico, the Hydroelectric Plant at Mollejon and, as needed, from BEL's own diesel generators. The National Grid receives 15.5 MW (megawatts) of power from CFE
Bomba in Maskall to the coastline;
(ii) construction of 19.3 km (12 miles) of 34.5Kv submarine cable link between the coastline at Bomba and Boca Chica at the southern tip of Ambergris Caye;
(iii) construction of 9.5 km (6 miles) of 34.5Kv overhead sub-transmission line between Boca Chica in San Pedro to the BEL Power Station in the center of town; and
(iv) upgrading and reinforcement of Feeders 1, 2 and 4 of the distribution system to a higher distribution voltage from 6.6Kv to 22Kv, including the replacement of rotted poles and re-conducting of brittle cables.
All these works were financed jointly by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and BEL at a total cost of BZ$17.816 million, of which BEL's share was BZ$2.2 million.
The 34.5Kv lines and all the upgrading and reinforcement work were done by BEL's own Transmission and Distribution Department. The laying of the submarine cable was done by ALCATEL Cable of France. The substations were constructed by Markham Electric of Canada. Some major benefits that will accrue to San Pedro now that the interconnection with the mainland is completed are:
1. the linkage of the Belize Power System with that of the huge Mexican Power Grid will result in improved power quality in terms of frequency and voltage control;
2. potential economic benefits due to BEL's access to cheaper power and energy from Mexico;
3. avoidance of engine noise and potential oil spills and fuel pollution. In this respect, an environmental clean-up of BEL's Power Station is scheduled to commence in February next year; and
4. lastly, enhancement of BEL's ability to cater to the rapidly expanding demand for power and energy on the island.
In closing, Mr. Lue took the opportunity to thank the people of San Pedro for their tolerance during the execution of this project. He stated, "BEL commits itself to giving you improved services as reliably as possible."
Area Representative for San Pedro, Hon. Patty Arceo was present and in her opening remarks commended everyone involved in the project. She also took time to congratulate Mr. Ernesto Gomez for taking care of the power in San Pedro and Caye Caulker during Hurricane Mitch. The Mayor of San Pedro Town, Mr. Alberto Nuñez remarked, "This is one more milestone in the development of San Pedro. He who waits gets what he deserves." Mayor Nuñez mentioned that he has received word from the Minister of Finance and Utilities concerning installation of additional street lights in areas like San Pedrito, Escalante Area and Boca del Rio. He then proceeded to award the Prime Minister with a gift from the San Pedro Town Board.
The main address of the ceremony was delivered by the Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Said Musa. In his address he mentioned that this was a historic day for San Pedro and Belize because it was the first time a national grid will be operating throughout the country. He also mentioned that some small villages off the coast would not have the advantage of this service but that does not mean they are forgotten. Minister Musa also said that part of his five year goal is to expand economic activity and this cannot be done without reliable electricity.
The vote of thanks was given by Ms. Diana Forman, BEL's Public Relations Officer. BEL's Chairman, Mr. Robert Usher then went into the plant and officially shut down the generator. The gathering was invited to tour the facilities after which they were served refreshments.
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