ublic Utilities Commission clarifies statement made by BEL
The conflicts between the Belize Electricity Limited and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) continue as both parties cannot seem to come to definitive agreements and decisions. The PUC is the body that is tasked to look out for the consumers and to ensure that rates are adequately set. While there have been reports of the two being at loggerheads, there is some degree of confirmation tonight as the PUC has issued a release saying that BEL was not being honest or forthcoming. BEL’s Chairman, Andrew Marshalleck, made an appearance on a local talk show where he spoke on the energy situation in the country as well as the recent cyber-attacks. According to BEL, the PUC stood in the way of a power purchasing agreement with Blair Athol Power Company Limited (BAPCOL) which ended this month. On the other hand, the PUC is admitting that they did intervene, but went further to say that if they had not stepped in, BEL would have agreed to a point-zero-eight-five cents per kilowatt hour for a 15-year period. Their intervention, however, got that rate down to point-zero-five-nine-three cents per kilowatt hour for a 25-year-period which reflects cost savings for consumers in the long term. Another point highlighted in the PUC’s release surrounds a new licensing regime that the PUC had proposed in August 2022. Apparently, BEL objected to the proposal, saying that, quote, “the best solution would be a licensing regime which precludes the activity at the onset until certain conditions are satisfied and that prudence dictates that a hosting capacity study be conducted to determine the amount of Distributed Generation (DG) production that can be connected to the grid without endangering reliability and voltage quality for customers.” The PUC notes that, and we quote, “BEL’s narrative contrasts sharply from their October 14, 2022 written communication and the PUC holds the view that BEL should by now be ready to facilitate the many potential energy producers who are eager to be licensed by the PUC to sell energy. A third point of contention has to do with BECOL’s proposal to install a solar farm. The PUC’s release notes, quote, “The BEL representative also mentioned that there were international interests prepared to move quickly to install electricity plants in Belize, and specifically that BECOL had made a proposal to install a solar farm. It was further stated that had BECOL’s proposal been approved by the regulating body, the solar farm would have been built by now. The PUC acknowledges that BECOL, in April 2019, presented an unsolicited proposal to develop a solar farm at Chalillo; however, the company proposed a rate equivalent to the existing Chalillo/Mollejon PPA. That rate is $0.199 cents per kWh, with an escalation clause of 1.5% per annum over a lifespan of 30 years. The PUC holds the view that competitive bidding would result in prices that are lower than those proposed by BECOL and such rates would be declining rather than escalating over time.” End of quote. As it relates to the recent cyber-attacks, BEL noted that the PUC is to blame for BEL not heavily investing in its security software. PUC says that is not so, and that it is BEL who chose not to invest since the security software would not bring a return on such an investment.