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Connecting Caye Caulker to the Grid

Caye Caulker’s growth has resulted in an increase in demand for power. Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) intends to leave behind diesel generated power and bring the island onto the national grid. BEL conducted a feasibility study to confirm the economic and social benefits of the project which will cost the utility company fifteen million dollars when implemented. Earlier today, BEL invited the media to tour the proposed locations at the south end of Ambergris Caye and the north end of Caye Caulker where the cable would be submerged on the seabed. Love News   spoke to Kevin Petzold, BEL’s Project manager about the viability of the project and the possible impact it would have on the environment.

Jose Sanchez: “BEL has completed a study regarding the installation of a Submarine cable to connect Caye Caulker to the National Electricity Grid. The cable would be buried in the sea bed between Caye Caulker and San Pedro where it will be connected to the Bomba Grid.”

Kevin Petzold, BEL’s Project manager: “The project as they say is to add Caye Caulker to the grid so the project will start from the southern tip of San Pedro and go across the Hol Chan Marine Reserve which is six miles and land on the northern island of Caye Caulker. The preferred route is the south of the forest reserve. At that point it goes underground until it reaches the split and then it goes under the split and then from there it goes to the existing Generating Station which will then become a substation. The growth of Caye Caulker in terms of tourism, the general growth and also it is not sustainable to keep the generators running to provide the kind of supply that Caye Caulker would need so it is planning for the future and also taking the environment into consideration. I think we were successful in San Pedro and we would like to see the same level of success for Caye Caulker where the outage has reduced dramatically over the last few years. The line itself, the submarine cable has not experienced any issues for over 20 years.”

Jose Sanchez: “What is the cause of this project and where does the funding come from?”

Kevin Petzold, BEL’s Project manager: We are at the early stage because we are currently in the public consultation period for the ESIA with the DOE so we are in the preliminary stages and in terms of costing and design  a rough figure is about $15 million Bz.”

Jose Sanchez: “And the funding?”

Kevin Petzold, BEL’s Project manager: The funding we are currently in discussion with the Caribbean Development Bank.”

Jose Sanchez: “An environmental and social impact assessment report was submitted as part of the study to the Department of Environment for review. BEL says that it will be able to handle the growth on the island and have less blackouts while reducing generator noises.”

Kevin Petzold, BEL’s Project manager: We have been in very close consultation with the Hol Chan Marine Office and they have joined us in going into the field and putting in their part in terms of the project so their input has been heavily considered and they are going along the journey with us in terms of the design. In terms of the environment in the report, it speaks to mitigating during the construction period so for example while laying the cable is probably the key period in terms of impact to the environment and we have had different proposals like using screens or burying the cable 1.5 meters depending on the depth of the sand to protect against the electromagnetic field. There wouldn’t be any more transportation of fuel for example and then the risk that goes along with that in the event that there is a spill while transporting so all the cost is taken into consideration in an ESIA report and clearly having something like what San Pedro enjoys which is a similar submarine cable is big benefit to them. We have multiple sources so what it really is, is it provides the opportunity for you to enjoy the lowest cost that would be possible. Without the connection you are limited to what is there in Caye Caulker, with the connection you can enjoy the lowest cost from whatever service we have available.”

Reporter: Was renewable energy ever and option with this project?”

Kevin Petzold, BEL’s Project manager: “This project is not in competition with renewable energy. This is to enhance any future renewable energy solution. As it is a Belizeans enjoys almost 60% renewable energy from the Hydro and the Biomass so this is really extending renewable to Caye Caulker now and later on if anything comes up then the possibility of sharing that as well would be possible because we now have a connection.”

Jose Sanchez: “But will it result in lower electricity bills?”

Kevin Petzold, BEL’s Project manager:This is something that we had committed to do in the past and it was already taken into consideration into our rates however PUC is the one that makes the determination of the rates but would you believe that the cost would reduce going from  generation to connecting so it is just a matter of actually crunching the numbers as I have said we are in the process of doing.

Jose Sanchez for Love News.”

 A public consultation on the ESIA Report will be held at 6:30pm on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at the Caye Caulker Roman Catholic Primary School.