Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A second submarine cable and other upgrades are in the works to avoid a power crisis in San Pedro

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Since 1998, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye has been connected to the national electricity grid on the mainland via a submarine cable. Over the years, that submarine cable has been put through the pressure of the island’s rapid growth. On Thursday, October 5th, at a meeting hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and the Belize Tourism Board in San Pedro, it was revealed that the cable has deteriorated and could lead to a power crisis on the island. While Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) reportedly acknowledged the state of the cable, the company stated they are working on a long-term plan to address this concern, including installing a second submarine cable connecting from the mainland to San Pedro.
A representative from BEL shared that from the time the cable was installed over two decades ago, they were aware the connection system had to be upgraded at some point to support San Pedro’s rapid development. BEL said they are working on a plan to avoid any power crisis affecting San Pedro, Belize’s top tourism destination.
This information was shared during the meeting in San Pedro by Area Representative Honourable Andre Perez and reportedly confirmed by BEL that such issues with the submarine can leave the island powerless for months. As such, BEL explained that the current submarine cable is near its capacity; thus, they are working to install a second connection line with the mainland to increase capacity.
According to BEL, they are seeking to bolster system reliability on the island as part of their five-year business plan and least-cost system expansion plan. The plans include installing a mobile generation infrastructure in San Pedro by January 2024 for short-term backup. This includes setting up a battery storage system by December of that same year and installing the second submarine interconnection from Maskall on the mainland by December 2025. BEL’s representative noted that such an initiative would allow them to carry out maintenance works on equipment without extending electricity service interruptions to San Pedranos. However, the electricity company indicated that before the installation of the second submarine begins, there needs to be consultation with environmental agencies/authorities to seek their guidance as the marine environment near and around Ambergris Caye is very fragile.
The idea of San Pedro being hit by a power crisis would be catastrophic. Islanders say their businesses would take the brunt of the situation if such an incident occurred. The most recent unplanned power outage, which affected the island for seven hours, occurred on September 1st at 8:02PM. BEL said the unexpectedd power outage was caused by lightning, which damaged protective equipment on the overhead transmission line on the southern tip of San Pedro, resulting in a permanent fault at that location. The prolonged delay in restoring the supply was due to the time taken to access the remote site, the nighttime, and weather conditions. Since then, the island has not had prolonged unplanned power outages.
We will follow this story with the planned installation of the mobile generation in January 2024.

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