There is good news coming for electricity consumers. State-run power provider Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) has applied for a reduction of about 10% in current rates to a value of 37 cents per kilowatthour (KwH) – easily the lowest it has been ever. But it can be even lower and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has countered with a proposed cut of 15%, which would take the mean rate to its lowest ever figure of 35 cents per kilowatthour. PUC Chairman John Avery explains what was behind the decision.
John Avery ¬- Chairman, Public Utilities Commission
“And so all of that put together, we’re looking at the electricity rate of thirty five cents for the period from July 1st 2015 to June 30th 2016. This represents 15.24% decrease in the mean electricity rates. On an average that is what the rates will be decreased across the board. This is just an initial decision, if we get any objections from BEL or from any interested party representing users of at least 10% of the electricity supply of the last calendar year, then the law require that we engage an independent expert to review the figures approved by the PUC and to make recommendations for any changes to those. PUC would thereafter then be required to make anew decision to be its final decision and that would be due by the end of May for this year. “
If there are no objections from BEL or others the rates go into effect on July 1. Avery noted that Belize is currently paying more for electricity from Mexico due to a scarcity of natural gas, which forces the Mexican provider CFE to rely on heavy fuel oil or diesel. Generally, however, CFE has switched to cheaper sources such as hydroelectricity and Belize has benefited. Avery also discussed BEL’s plans to install more street lights, particularly in the crime-ridden Southside of Belize City.
“That doesn’t really have any impact on the rate review per say. We use the forecast BEL has for street lighting and based on the formula that’s says so much percent of the cost should be allotted for street lighting then we determine a rate. Really with street lighting it’s the Government that pays the bill, I think for the most part it’s the government that supplies the street lighting equipment, so really the amount of street lights out there is a matter between government and BEL. Whenever we do a cost of service study we would look at what impact streetlights has on the cost of BEL and says this is the percentage of BEL’s total cost that should be allotted to street lighting, but if BEL increases the number of street lights per say, then the consumption will increase and the bill for street lighting will be higher, but that bill is paid by Government, so really its government who determines how many street lights and that sort of thing and at which rate it is added you know. “
The PUC is receiving comments at its Gabourel Lane, Belize City office.