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Minister of Rural Transformation Speaks on the “Lait Up” Belize Project

The LAIT (light) UP BELIZE! Project is progressing smoothly and at the pace things are going, electricity to remote communities in the south will become a reality. The final components of the national plan for energy access was recently completed. The plan seeks to identify electricity service options, based on line extensions or mini-grid technologies to provide the same level of service to all citizens in Belize. A team visited villages down south to determine what technical solutions are appropriate for providing electricity to those communities. Minister of Rural Transformation Oscar Requena says this will met national policy objectives while at the same time satisfy a key target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Oscar Requena, Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Local Government and Labour: “We are happy to partner with the European Union. They are very much interested in supporting the Government of Belize to bring about that necessary change to ensure that we bring electricity, that we bring energy to these rural communities that have not been connected. So in that line we visited communities as I said across the country, in the north, in the south, central Belize and the purpose of that visit really was to meet with the leaders of the community to meet with the community, to sit and to dialogue with them, to share with them what is the vision of the Ministry of Public Utilities in terms of expanding electricity, the work of the European Union and so on. But most important it is really to listen to the community. To hear from them whether they are interested in getting energy, getting electricity to their community. So first and foremost it was that consultation to hear from them and also to present the side of the European Union and the various government ministries. And I must say those visits went well. For the most part all communities with the exception of the Mennonite communities all other communities are saying \we are interested, we see the importance of having electricity in our communities to be able to improve their lives, to be able to improve access to education particularly in the context of COVID-19, certainly the opportunity to expand and create new businesses.’  So there was a very robust conversation across this country in those rural communities and I can say to you that the majority are saying they want the project, so certainly we will continue this discussion with the European Union. They’re saying they’re prepared to find the funding and to be able to help to partner with the Government of Belize to improve the lives of our rural communities. What is gonna happen at this point is that there is going to be certainly an assessment to determine what is the best kind of energy to bring to these communities. Some of these communities certainly can be connected to the main grid, the BEL main grid. You know the lines can be expanded and that’s going to work. Some of them are very remote for example if I can say to you San Benito Poite, you know Dolores, Otoxa, Criquesarco they are very far away from the main grid so certainly we have to look at an alternative to that and what the discussion has been centered around is that you know we can look at the possibility of establishing mini grids to either serve individual communities or mini grids that are going to serve various communities as is in the case of Medina Bank, Golden Stream and Indian Creek where we have a mini grid that is going to serve those three  communities all powered by solar energy.”

The national plan is funded by the European Union (EU), who also providing a ten-million-dollar grant to the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL). The grant provides for a mini-grid infrastructure with hybrid solar/diesel generation and battery storage for some of the villages.