Monday, July 22, 2024

Electricity rates going up; consumers and PUC call out BEL’s utility practices

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The cost of electricity will increase this month through June of this year. In an official note issued on Wednesday, January 5th, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced that the Mean Electricity Rate or MER would be adjusted from $0.39.9 to $0.41.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. The increase was requested by Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) on December 10, 2021, reporting that it had paid more for power by the end of last year and is projecting to pay more in the first months of 2022. Many customers on the island are not happy with the announced increase. Even the PUC weighed in on the matter, accusing BEL of flouting the law, buying power at a higher rate from other sources, and expecting the consumers to pay the bill.

In December, when BEL requested the increase, it reported that it had paid an additional $3.82 million for power up to the end of that month. From January to June of 2022, they expect to pay $4.14 million more in increased electricity supply, thus raising the light rate on the consumers.

However, consumers believe the company should revise such intention and reconsider the increase. According to many islanders sharing their views, the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and this is no time to be making the people pay for increases. According to them, increases can occur under poor management. Others were not surprised, and they expect other commodities to increase, denouncing that the government should raise the minimum wage so Belizeans could cope with the increased cost of living.

The PUC shared the same sentiment, asking if such an increase in electricity was necessary. The Commission shared that from September 1-24, 2021, there were instances where BEL elected to purchase power from BECOL when the cost of energy from Mexico was significantly lower. In other cases, the electricity company claimed to buy power from Mexico, when in the domestic market prices were lower. Due to these decisions, the company ended up paying more for power. The PUC also faults BEL for continually ignoring the law and intentionally disregarding reasonable requests, such as disclosing supporting invoices for the cost of power. According to PUC, they are planning to change the legislation so that submissions lacking information will be marked as non-submissions. BEL’s decisions were considered not to be consistent with good utility practices.

The PUC invites the public to email their written comments on this upcoming amendment in the electricity rates. Comments can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to Post Office Box number 300, Belize City. The deadline to submit comments is January 15, 2022.

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