Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Drought affecting Belize may cause further power rationing

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The country is currently experiencing a severe drought, which is not only affecting the agricultural sector but also threatening energy as well. For the past weeks, the water level at the Fortis Dam hydroelectric reservoir has been dwindling, and its management has stated that there will be only enough water for about two more weeks.
The energy company based in the western Cayo District, Fortis Belize, currently provides as much as 40% of the country’s electricity. This is a service the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) depends on to power the national grid. BEL gets power from other sources within the country and completes the supply needed to meet the demand from Mexico. However, over the past weeks, Mexico has had difficulties supplying Belize with power, leading to daily planned power outages across the country. BEL said they need to disconnect specific feeders within strategic areas nationwide to avoid overloading their grid. They plan to upgrade their power generation to reduce the load shedding that is affecting their customers.

Aerial of Chalillo Dam and resevior, Belize

If the drought continues and the levels at Fortis Dam, also known as the Chalillo Dam, continue to decline, power outages may be extensive and more frequent. The Chief Executive Officer at Fortis Belize, Kay Menzies, said their production will depend on how BEL uses the water. “The reservoir is a little bit low. There has been plenty of usage, but BEL has been using the water in a way that is trying to save it for a lot longer,” Menzies said. She explained that when BEL has access to the supply from Mexico, the usage of their reservoir is less. However, without rain, the dam could not produce electricity. Menzies said levels at the reservoir have been lower in previous years and have never run dry. According to her, it would be a much worse situation if that happened. “Pray we do not see that, for those rivers to actually run bone dry with the reservoir not be able to have a drop of water in it,” she said.
The current drought is considered an extended one, as May is usually rainy. It has not rained in months. While the main rivers in the country continue flowing, levels are decreasing, and the currents are also slowing down. If the rainy season starts in the upcoming weeks, water levels will rise, and operations will return to normalcy at the hydro dam.
The hot and dry conditions have also been attributed to wildfires in the Toledo and Cayo Districts. Several farms and lush rainforests in national parks have burned. A task force comprising government and non-government agencies and volunteers has joined efforts to tackle the blaze. The people affected by the unfortunate phenomenon and those trying to contain it hope the rainy season will start soon.
The latest weather forecast from the National Meteorological Service of Belize from Thursday, May 30th through Sunday, June 2nd, reports fair and warm conditions, with little or no rainfall.

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