No electricity rate increase for Belizeans

BELMOPAN, Belize, March 31, 2008 – Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) won’t get the 15 per cent rate increase it had asked the country’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for.

BEL had requested the rate hike, citing the rising cost of fuel on the international market. But after reviewing the company’s application, projections and submissions by the general public and interested parties the PUC has denied the request.

The commission said the electricity company could satisfy its financial obligations this year as well as manage its cash flow if it would just reduce capital expenditure and operating expenditure.

In its ruling, the PUC also refused to adjust customer tariffs as BEL had requested.

The news will be welcomed by consumers in general as well as the Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) which has objected to the rate hike and urged the PUC not to “saddle Belizean consumers and producers with the requested rate increase”.

The union had also claimed that BEL also had the option of buying electricity cheaper from Mexico’s National Utility, Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), but continued to purchase at higher rates from its sister company, Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL).

The PUC said that among the 190 written public comments which it received after BEL announced its intention to apply for the increase, were contentions that the company should be forced to renegotiate the price it pays to BECOL and CFE.