Friday, June 21, 2024

Plans discussed to upgrade the power supply for Ambergris Caye


The Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment, and the World Bank organized a public information session at the Sunbreeze Hotel conference room to discuss a project to enhance the resilience of the electricity system in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Held on Thursday, April 4th, the consultation outlined the details of the Belize Renewable Integration and Resilient Energy System project funded by the World Bank. It will involve a battery energy storage system, grid-resilient infrastructure, and capacity building.
Led by the Area Representative, Honourable Andre Perez, the meeting started at 6PM, and Perez welcomed those in attendance. He talked about the energy crisis that the island is heading into, as Ambergris Caye has maxed out the capacity of the current submarine cable, which is connecting it to the national grid on the mainland. The cable has a capacity of 17 Megawatts, which San Pedro has surpassed a couple of times before and after the Easter holidays at the end of March. As such, a plan to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the island is imperative since Ambergris Caye is the country’s prime tourism and real estate destination.
The Public Utilities Commission technician, Ernesto Gomez, presented an overview of the country’s energy supply. He noted that San Pedro has far exceeded the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) forecasts as the island’s growth has significantly increased over the past years. The same goes for the peak demand across the country, which in 2023 was 127 Megawatts and was already reached in early 2024. As a result, adjustments were made to secure reliable power sources as the forecasts have changed. Gomez spoke on the country’s commitment to renewable energy. He said that Belize has committed to supply the country with 75% renewable energy by 2030, which looks very doable as Belize is currently producing 57% of electricity from renewable sources. Hydroelectric power is the primary source, along with burning biomass from the sugar cane industry. Other potential renewable energy sources include waste from the agricultural sector, such as the banana industry and lumber. Solar energy was also discussed, and through a zero-interest loan from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the government intends to build a solar plan for the coming years. Customers nationwide are encouraged to seek the benefits of solar energy via panels to reduce the impact of carbon. Gomez said that the system they are working on will allow solar power from homes and businesses to go back into the national grid and even be compensated for it.
The rest of the electricity in Belize is produced by burning fossil fuels and purchasing power from Mexico. Gomez added that one of the critical elements the PUC will apply in the future is providing regular updates on the policy environment, long-term plans, and relevant technical requirements to maintain adequate national power supply.

BEL to install Energy Storage Systems in Ambergris Caye and critical locations across the country

A BEL representative outlined a plan to ensure a consistent power supply to Ambergris Caye in the meantime. A mobile gas turbine will be installed by the end of May to provide supplementary power as needed, followed by a battery energy storage system to meet the high power demand. The battery system is to be completed in approximately a year. This system will also be installed in other country areas, such as Orange Walk Town, Dangriga Town, and Ladyville Village. The long-term plan for Ambergris Caye includes a second submarine cable connection to the grid by 2026, as the existing cable is reaching the end of its lifespan.
Preparations are underway to install the equipment on the island and across the country. These preparations include upgrading and constructing interconnection lines and power substations. Final developments are still ongoing, and consultations for these upgrades will continue.
At the end of the session, the Honourable Perez thanked those in attendance and encouraged more people to attend these meetings to discuss concerns affecting San Pedranos, emphasizing the importance of a consistent power supply to the island.

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