PM says government working to find solution to electricity demands
The alarm has been sounded, and Belize needs to move fast to secure additional sources of energy generation. With the recent power outages, surges, and appeals for consumers to minimize their power use, the government along with the Belize Electricity Limited have come to appreciate the urgency. Love News spoke with Prime Minister John Briceno who assured us that the government is working with regional partners to identify a solution to the country’s urgent need for increased power generation. In recent weeks, Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) has been unable to meet the increased demand for electricity, brought on by recent heat waves, and Mexico’s increased need. According to BEL, Mexico’s Comisión Federal de Electricidad CFE, which supplies BEL with about half of its electricity needs, is facing similar issues in the Yucatan Peninsula and has decreased the amount of energy it sells to Belize. The situation is concerning, and BEL says that if it is unable to secure additional generational capacity, it may be unable to keep the lights on. Prime Minister Briceno says this situation highlights some positives in our economy, but does show where we need to expand .
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “I know that BEL has sound the warning. Two things, one is that one of the most important things is that the economy has been growing very fast. Whenever I speak to the CEO he tells me I know how the economy is going. He says whenever I see electricity consumption is going up it’s because the economy is also growing. And so that’s what they’ve been experiencing. That’s one part of the equation but the other part of the equation is also that Mexico is having some serious problems with energy. They are running short of energy and especially now in the Riviera Maya that area that’s moving and growing and so if they have to cut they are not going to cut Mexico they’re going to cut Belize so he has sound the warning also because of the drought we have an issue with the dam that the dam is reaching levels kind of where kind of start to sound the alarm that if you continue – hopefully we’re going to have more rains that the dam can be filled and so we could get more. But what is it that we’re doing ? We’re doing a number of things first of all they are bringing in two I think movable generators and I think they want to take one to San Pedro, that’s one. Secondly the Bowen and Bowen group have won a bid to provide solar energy and they already I think they’re going to be doing it in the Corozal district and probably somewhere in the Belize district by Bomba in that area I think. I think it’s about 15 megawatts. The problem is now that the PUC has been taking their time they are trying to make sure that they get it right. When they sent out a letter now to the Bowen Group about the price that they want for the Bowen Group to pay it was way too low and I am not an expert and I figured that would not work. So the Bowen Group said no. What we have done, I have called a meeting. We had a meeting with them last week with the Bowen Group, with the PUC and BEL and so now the PUC is going back to the drawing board and trying to come up because there are certain assumptions that I believe were not properly ventilated or analyzed. And so now the idea is not that within one month they’re going to come with another price that they could buy, which then the Bowen group is saying, well, they think that they’re prepared to do that. Once they do that, then they could start setting up so within a year we’re going to have that.”
To further address the energy issue, Prime Minister Briceno says they are meetings scheduled for the next few days to explore other options. One of those options is to have Belize join the Central American electrical grid.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Next I’m meeting with the Minister of Energy, which is Micho Chebat and how we can, in a way, deregulate the bidding for providing energy into the grid so that we could have different companies saying okay, I want to put 20 megawatts, then okay, you do that and then the idea is what they do in other countries the distributor does not buy. You set up a kind of NGO type of “company” and that group will be buying energy at the lowest price possible be it from Mexico, be it from the Bowen Group, be it from Chalio Dam, from whosoever so that then we can sell the lowest price for energy in the grid to our Belizean people. And lastly before I forget when I was at the meeting for the Association of Caribbean States in Antigua I asked for a meeting with President Giammattei and I said, Belize, I’ve already spoken to all the presidents and ministers of finance and ministers of environment for Central America saying that Belize wants to join the Central American energy grid because by doing that then we could buy from Mexico, we could buy from Central America, who knows in the medium term we’ll be able to sell energy into that. grid. And so President Giammattei said immediately we support you. So I think, presently the Minister of Energy from Guatemala is here and he wants to meet with me and he’s having discussions also with Minister Chebat to be able for us to be able to find how we can connect up to the grid. So, whilst the alarm is necessary but it also jolt us into action. For the past 13 years nothing much has been happening because of this fight between PUC and BEL and now two years now, in two years and a half into our ministry, into our term, I’m saying to the PUC we need to get our act together and we need to move and we need to move fast.”
We’ll hear from Prime Minister Briceno later on in our newscast on the issue of redistricting.