BEL says Belize needs to increase it’s energy generation
The Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) is sounding the alarm on what it says is an urgent need to increase the country’s energy generating capacity. The company has been unable to meet the increased demand for electricity sparked by recent heat waves, and says Mexico’s Comisión. Federal de Electricidad (CFE), has also registered an increase in demand across the Yucatan Peninsula. CFE, which supplies BEL with about half of the electricity it needs to meet demands, is similarly facing issues in procuring energy, and has essentially put BEL on notice. BEL’s Chairman, Andrew Marshalleck, explained that the issue lies in identifying and securing additional generational capacity. Marshalleck says the system has been failing the company for over two decades, and needs to be fixed. Meanwhile, BEL is looking at a band aid fix to support the power needed to keep the lights on.
Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman, BEL: “Given the way we see things going, the way we project growth in consumer demand there will soon come a time when we’re not able to so manage demand unless additional capacity is in fact put in place, additional generation capacity. In the short term, to shore up things BEL will be looking to procure some portable generators to shore up power generation in areas of high demand and in other strategic locations. And in the longer term, within the next 12 to 15 months, we’ll be looking to provoke the construction of generation facilities that are currently in the pipeline but have seemed to become stuck in there for one reason or the other and are taking too long to come out the other end so we need to provoke those constructions. And specifically, we’re talking about two solar farms like Babcol, one in Chanchen, one in Maskall that has been on the table for very many years and really needs to happen yesterday. And two the construction of RICE generating plants in Southern Belize; that’s a reciprocating internal combustion engine and that’s been on the table for many years too and just can’t seem to come out the other end. With regard to the latter plant, we have made contact with NGC, the National Gas Company, who had made a bid on the last occasion the RICE plant went out for request for proposal to inquire if they’re able to still deliver on a plant within the next 12 months. Apart from the two solar plants and the RICE plants we have also been engaged since last year in upgrading of the GT facility at mile eight to increase capacity and change the fuel that it will use to generate electricity to gas. We believe that if these three facilities, these three increased generating capacities or three ways of increasing generating capacity can be achieved; that is the establishment of the two solar plants at BABCOL and the rice plant in the south. and the upgrading of the GT within the next 10 months, then if there’s a heat wave next summer we’ll be in a far better position to be able to handle demand as well as to handle the increased demand that we expect over time as Belize grows in any event.”
Marshalleck explained that the company’s ability to generate electricity is extremely limited as it relies on independent power producers. He says the red tape surrounding the procurement of power has created issues in closing commercial agreements with power producers.
Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman, BEL: “Independent power producers produce and generate powers. When BEL expects that more generation is required, it makes a request to the PUC for that additional generating capacity. The PUC in turn issues a request for proposals from the public, and they select, they evaluate these bids and they select the person who will be supplying, building these plants and supplying this power and then send them to BEL for a commercial arrangement to be worked out subject to their approval. That process has failed us. Doesn’t work. Takes too long, produces no results and nothing reliable. And that is part of the problem. So the two solar plants have been I believe since 2013 in the pipelines, the power purchase agreements have been negotiated and signed by BABCO* and BEL and while with the approval of PUC, PUC has difficulties with price, say that there’s some errors in calculation of price. None of that concerns us from BEL’s perspective that the price being offered is well below the average prices we’re paying now and the priority is to secure the power so that the quibbling over price is neither here nor there as far as we’re concerned. But those things lead to delays and had it been that those agreements which were submitted from all the way back January last year had been approved then we would have had that extra 15 megawatts of power when we experienced this heat wave. Instead, we still don’t, and still don’t have an agreement for construction to start. So we need to provoke that and that is what I indicated to you. With regard to the RICE plant, you all know the whole Sea One issue. BEL was not able to reach commercial arrangement with Sea One. BEL informed the PUC years ago that it could not reach such an arrangement. It was not convinced that Sea One had the capacity to deliver on what was required and asked for that to be put back out to the public. That has not been done.”