Belize power company going to court for rate hike

BELMOPAN, Belize, June 30, 2008 – Twice short-circuited by the Public Utilities Commission this year, the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) is heading to the law courts to get approval to increase its charge on customers.

The country’s sole electricity provider has announced its decision to legally contest a decision by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to deny a rate hike for the second time this year.

BEL’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Young, said the ruling “threatens the financial health of the company”.

“BEL will not be able to meet all of its financial obligations,” she said.

The PUC said that the existing rates would remain in effect for the annual tariff period July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009, until otherwise adjusted under the new Rate Setting Methodology (RSM).

That new RSM will provide for an automatic adjustment mechanism to adjust the cost of power component of rates on a monthly basis “to reflect the true and current price of power”, the PUC said.

The ruling that BEL’s rate increase was not justified came despite the recommendation of an independent expert, Dr Jonathan Lesser, whose opinion was sought by the Commission after it turned down the second rate hike request in late May. 

Dr Lesser had suggested, among other things, an increase of the rate from 44.1 cents to 47.7 cents per kilowatt hour, that would fall largely on middle income residential customers and large commercial and industrial users.