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BEL and Belcogen are in a legal battle

Belize Electricity Limited, BEL, has been purchasing electrical energy from Belize Co-Generation Energy Limited, Belcogen, which is a provider of electrical energy. This energy is produced from bagasse which is the fibre left after the extraction of juice from sugar cane. The two companies had entered into a power purchasing agreement concerning the sale of electricity. However, the two parties have failed to agree on rates to be charged for the sale of electricity and are also disputing whether an arbitrator should be appointed to resolve the matter since the Public Utilities Commission, PUC is the regulating body of electricity rates.  Yesterday, the case came up before the panel of judges in the Court of Appeals. At this juncture the PUC, has also entered the picture. PUC is being represented by Senior Counsel, Fred Lumor, BEL is being represented by Yohhahnseh Cave and Belcogen is being represented by Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay. After yesterday’s hearing Senior Counsel Fred Lumor briefed Love news on the case.

Fred Lumor SC – Attorney for Public Utilities Commission: BELCOGEN AND BEL between themselves cannot set the price at which BELCOGEN sells power to BEL. That is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, BELCOGEN and BEL signed what they called a PPA which is a Power Purchase Agreement which sets out the terms and reference on which BELCOGEN will sell power to BEL. There are certain provisions in that agreement which are in conflict with the Public Utilities Statute or the Belize Electricity Statute, for instance, BELCOGEN applied to the Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Abel that there is a base rate which the PUC set sometime in 2007. That rate should be referred to private arbitration for a determination whether it is valid in the law. The PUC applied to the court to be joined as one of the parties to the dispute, to say to the court that, that particular matter cannot be referred to as arbitration since the PUC is given power by law to determine that issue and unfortunately the judge refused to allow the PUC to join, that is the reason why we brought this appeal against the decision. He is saying that the dispute that they are asking the arbitrator to consider is a discrete issue; whether they wanted to appoint Mr. Dennis Morrison QC as an arbitrator since Belize Electricity refused to agree on an arbitrator. So they went to court as provided in the Arbitration Act that the court should appoint an arbitrator since the parties cannot agree on one. He is saying that in those circumstances PUC should not have been allowed to come in because it was purely a question of appointment of an arbitrator and we disagreed saying that what they asking the arbitrator to determine is a matter which falls squarely within the table of the PUC.”

The Court of Appeals has reserved its judgement to a date to be set.