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PUC Invites the Public to Submit Suggestions on Proposed Increase in Electricity Rates

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is inviting the public to submit queries, suggestions or concerns regarding the proposed increase in electricity rates. Initially, the deadline for these submissions was January 15, but that has since been extended to January 31. The PUC is proposing that the cost of light be increased by one point six cents per kilowatt hour. Meanwhile the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) is saying the up in price is not necessary; at least not yet. Chairman of the BEL’s Board, Andrew Marshalleck explained that once members of the public submit their views to the PUC, the commission is obliged to consider them.

Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman, BEL: Every member of the public has a right to submit their views to the PUC and the PUC is obliged take it into account when they made the final decision so it’s not only about BPL and PUC. The BEL has put forth their position, PUC has put forth there’s it’s the public know to sound what their view, give their input so that that that final decision can be made. Look if it is finally decided that we are to get the additional $10 million dollars next year BEL won’t be upset we’ll take the $10 million dollars. This is an issue for consumers. We took a position that we thought would have benefited consumers on the wider economy so it was actually a role reversal of sorts because it’s normally the BEL that’s asking for rate increases and the PUC is saying no consumers shouldn’t have to pay that. We have in this scenario the PUC said yes there should be and increase and bill actually saying well hold off we can push that back.” 

BEL Chairman Marshalleck further explained that the proposed increase would take effect in June 2022. He says that the move is to recover some ten million dollars for BEL, but this is not the ideal time for consumers to have their bills increased.

Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman, BEL:  You fix rates so that BEL is in a position to recover the cost of the energy that it distributes to its customers. So you are trying to figure out what’s going to happen with energy costs next year. Is it going to go up is it going to go down, is it going to stay the same and the consensus between both BEL and the PUC is that the cost would likely go up by about $10 million next year. That $10 million dollars translate when you divide it backward by the consumers and the usage to about $0.02 per kilowatt hours that two set increase at their offering is to generate an additional $10 million dollars over the year. No there’s no problem with any of that we can argue over little details but it doesn’t make much of a difference it’s still about $10 million dollars so let’s accept that. The issue for BEL is we are looking at a situation where people already can’t pay their electricity bills and we see raising electricity bills now as just creating more arrears. You see just because the PUC decides that we need $10 million dollars more to pay for energy next year it doesn’t mean that there is $10 million dollars out there to pay for it. So we recognized that and we are the ones who have to chase down and collect from customers and we’ve been experiencing difficulties with it already so we took the view that look you’re in the middle of the pandemic is still going. BEL in preparing its business plan which is always her five years going on and we approved a plan in December starting January contemplates keeping the rates the way they are through 2023 and then making adjusts gradual adjustments thereafter to put us back where we need to be and the thinking that informed that is really that look let’s give consumers, let’s give the economy some space to rebound and after there is rebound then we’re not predicting numbers we know what the numbers actually are what the turnouts actually are we can figure out a way to move forward. We say that because BEL had a bumper year $40 million in profits not last year the year before and we did about 35 again last year so the company is in a position to carry things forward the next period without the public being put at risk of not getting the energy that they need. So we decided the best approach was for us to do that to lend a hand in the recovery and then we seek to set the numbers back straight after the economy is in a better footing and that was all that was underpinned our rate review submission in December and while we pointed out that yes to numbers call for a rich increase we didn’t ask for the rate increase.” 

Members of the public can make their submissions to BEL via email, info@puc.bz .