Time is running out for Belize Electricity Limited as its arrangement with the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (C.F.E.) of Mexico, which supplies about 70% of the country with power, is maxed out. Massive and rolling blackouts can arise if B.E.L. is unable to make regular payments to keep its $8Million debt to CFE below the credit limit and Prime Minister Dean Barrow says that B.E.L. will have to handle its own affairs.
Belize Electricity Limited is in grave financial trouble and owes millions to creditors and its primary supplier of power, Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) of Mexico, who may cut power to Belize in ten days or less. According to Lynn Young, CEO of B.E.L., they have to be making payments on a daily basis to keep below the credit limit and the last payment made only gave them 10 to 12 days of credit.
“I don’t think the government will allow that to happen, but at the end of the day, we all have to be responsible about the electrical supply to the country,” commented Lynn Young to News 5, Belize City. “I can’t imagine rolling blackouts with crime situation as it is in Belize City, not to mention the effect on the economy - we just can’t have that. So quite frankly, if we don’t pay CFE they will cut us off. If they cut us off, we don’t have enough water to carry the country for more than five or six days. So there will be rolling blackouts.”
B.E.L. was previously getting 33% of its power supply from Mexico and the bulk of power from at least four other suppliers including Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL), Belize Cogeneration Energy Limited (BELCOGEN) Hydro Maya, Belize Aquaculture Limited and a small portion from B.E.L.’s diesel generators. The construction of BECOL’s VACA and Chalillo Dams and the sugar industry’s BELCOGEN were once seen as the only way to wean the country off Mexico’s power grid. So what happened to make the country dependent once more on Mexico?
According to Lynn Young in an interview with News 5 in 2010 they got about 35% of electricity from CFE Mexico with the addition of the Vaca Hydro Plant BAL and BELCOGEN. Young stated that BAL hasn’t been able to produce because they couldn’t get good fuel since their supplier went out of business and had issues getting affordable fuel.
He continued by stating that even if BAL commenced operating again their price would be even higher that CFE because they would be using pure fuel and wouldn’t help BEL as far as the financial part goes. And so the issues with its other suppliers have been running on a streak of bad luck and BEL has been about 70% of its power from Mexico in the first part of this year.
Now would be the time to prepare with flash lights, lanterns and generators as we could be facing rolling blackouts in days to come. We hope that BEL can find a solution to this major problem.