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PUC calls discussion on requests for energy generation premature

Public Utilities Commission

Public Utilities Commission

Public Utilities Commission

Tuesday, November 4, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting:  The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has been grappling with public disapproval over aspects of the 2013 Requests for Proposals for Energy Generation which seeks to double Belize’s current capacity for electricity generation over the next 15 years.

PUC Chairman John Avery  seemed surprised at the level of discussion of the RFPEG and opined that not all of it is constructive.

He assured that the PUC has no intention of doing anything other than ensuring Belize’s energy future through any or all of the projects now being reviewed.

Of the eight projects delivering firm capacity selected for the final stage of simulation prior to negotiating power purchase agreements with Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), the Cohune Energy Limited project has generated the most support from the population because of the benefits of co-generation with this hardy plant.

John Avery

John Avery

But according to PUC chairman John Avery, that project is not – currently – what its backers say it is.

Only one project proposing to start a cohune co-generation project came before the PUC and the bid was withdrawn.

The Cohune Energy Limited project actually calls for a farm of eucalyptus trees to power a co-generation plant, with a switch to cohune planned in the future.

Avery dismissed concerns about other projects, including Guatemalan-owned SS Energy’s bagasse plant and Southern Renewable Energy’s hydro projects in the Cayo and Toledo Districts, noting that the PUC has outlined each project’s risks and BEL will negotiate any agreements with these in mind.

SS Energy is subject to Belize’s laws and will be closely monitored, and Anwar Barrow’s presence with SREL is little more than having a famous name aboard to give the project that much more of a boost.

SREL’s backers have a record of success with similar projects and there is nothing in Belize’s laws that actively prevent relatives of government officials or Guatemalan companies from engaging in business in Belize.

Avery says the simulation phase where each project is reviewed in its ability to connect to the national grid ended on Friday and a final report is being written which will determine which projects may proceed to negotiations with BEL.

The PUC reserves the right to freeze any or all of the approved projects or scrap the RFPEG altogether.

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