Power Outages Plague Belize as Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission Struggles with Supply Issues

Power Outages Plague Belize as Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission Struggles with Supply Issues

The Belize Electricity Limited is working to tackle two issues affecting the country’s power supply. Last night, dozens of communities were affected by power outages after the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE Mexico) informed BEL that it encountered difficulties maintaining its energy supply to Belize’s power grid. The company had to rely on local power generation, but the nation’s consumption rate exceeded local supply, leading to what the company refers to as load shedding.  The company was able to rectify the issue, but by this morning the troubles continued as a broken transmission line in the rural Corozal District affected the grid’s power supply. BEL’s General Manager of Energy Supply and Transmission, Jose Moreno, explained late this evening in a press conference how the company is being affected by a shortage of power supply and damages to its infrastructure.

Jose Moreno, General Manager of Energy Supply and Transmission, BEL: “Early this morning we had a fault on our transmission line between Chan Chen. Chan Chen or the Joe Espat Substation as it was recently named is a new substation that we commissioned last year and that supplies service to the Corozal service center. So we had a fault between that substation and BelgoGen. At the time that this happened we had Mexico supplying us at maximum capacity and therefore we had limited resource sin country to be able to match the demand of the system that stayed in place and therefore the system collapsed. Now I mentioned earlier that without the gas turbine which was capacity of 20 megawatts that unit has the capacity of bringing up the system faster because on all the plants that are available now those are smaller units whereby just to energize transmission lines it becomes very challenging. So the process is lengthened and that is what happened this morning. It was a lengthy process of bringing up enough generation to do the addition of load, distribution feeders to be energized one by one and sometimes those feeders are too large in the sense that if you put them at one time they overwhelm the capacity of the generation available and the system collapses. So it is a very lengthy process. I think you have heard of cases in North America where you have blackouts like that and it takes up to days to restore the system. In our case it’s not that it’s complex but it’s still challenging and it takes us some time before we can restore power to all our customers.”

Moreno further stated that the company’s agreement with Mexico’s CFE is not concrete and allows CFE to curtail its power at any given time. He says the uncertainty is difficult to handle and appeals to consumers to curtail the use of electricity when local generation is too low to supply the nation.

Jose Moreno, General Manager of Energy Supply and Transmission, BEL: “If CFE curtails us again we will have to rotate some outages. We will have to affect some feeders given that the demand today was as high as it is, as it was yesterday. So we will have to rotate a few outages for the time during that peak time because normally it happens at the time that CFE also goes through their peak and normally that is between 7 and 10 o’clock at night. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are – I mentioned that we are doing an upgrade of the gas turbine at mile 8 with that upgrade we should be getting ten additional megawatts to the twenty that wa rated earlier and that unit is supposed to start commissioning by this weekend. So we expect to have that unit online by early next week. It’s kind of complex. We have to make sure that we match generation to the demand that we are going to add and sometimes the generating units because those are smaller units become very unstable when you add new load like that and some of them will not convert, will not stay and they go off. Their protection takes them off because either of frequency or voltage and when that happens it starts cascading the whole system again and we lose it. So that is what was happening this morning that with the smaller generating units that we had available it was very difficult for us to bring back let’s say the entire Belize City. Normally when we have Mexico available you know we can afford to bring back the entire Belize City at one switch.”

Moreno added that on several occasions, the company has dealt with high prices for power supply from Mexico resulting in losses for the company. ////

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