The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has been grappling with public disapproval over aspects of the 2013 Requests for Proposals for Energy Generation, which seeks to double Belize’s current capacity for electricity generation over the next 15 years.
Of the eight projects delivering firm capacity selected for the final stage of simulation, prior to negotiating power purchase agreements with Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), the Cohune Energy Limited project has generated the most support from the population because of the benefits of co-generation with this hardy plant. But according to PUC chairman John Avery, that project is not – currently – what its backers say it is.
“We didn’t evaluate any project involving cohune nuts as a source of generation.
We have not evaluated any cohune project. We received one project, one bid, for Cohune Project. The bidder subsequently withdrew his bid. So he is not even on this list.
Other than that we did not evaluate any bid for cohune co-generation project.”
The project actually calls for a farm of eucalyptus trees to power a co-generation plant, then ramping up to cohune in three to five years.
John Avery dismissed concerns about other projects, including Guatemalan-owned SS Energy’s bagasse plant and Southern Renewable Energy’s hydro projects in the Cayo and Toledo Districts, noting that the PUC has outlined each project’s risks and BEL will negotiate any agreements with these in mind.
He speaks to the issue of how the PUC reviewed each project.
“In our original document, we put out a formula that we would use to evaluate these projects. I can’t tell you the exact amount but, for example, in the managerial, technical, financial component, out of twenty point, so much points was awarded for each of those three. If you demonstrate that you’re a company that in the past that have done these projects before, or you have someone who has the experience in dealing with electricity systems, then certainly you’ll get higher that someone who is just trying to enter the game.
If you have more secure financing, and I won’t say secure at this time, because none of the financing is secure, they are mostly expressions of interest to some extent, that if this happens then yes you will get the financing.
But none of these people will get any financing unless they have a PPS signed deal, because for what will you use the financing?”
John Avery seemed surprised at the level of discussion of the RFPEG, and opined that not all of it is constructive. He gave us an update on where it stands.
“Our target was to have all the technical team doing that part of the evaluation completed by October 31st, and all indications are, I’ve been assured, that they have completed their work that they’ve been doing, and now they’re in the stages of preparing their final report. Once that report is complete, that report will be circulated to the three parties leading the RFP. We will discuss the report, and I guess at the end of that we’ll come up with a list, honour ranking, that we believe PL should then proceed to negotiate with the different bidders.
That negotiation process will really depend upon what are all the key issues that need to be covered for each project. Certainly we have defined certain risks, or certain hurdles, that these projects need to clear, before we can make any firm commitment to any of them.”