Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2022. 12:04 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: On the heels of Friday’s lengthy power outage caused by a sudden loss of supply from Mexico, Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) is announcing plans to bring on line more renewable energy sources that will reduce, though not completely eliminate, dependence on power supplied from Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE), the state power provider in Mexico.
Karique Marin, manager of distribution planning and engineering for BEL, detailed what happened when the lights went out at 3:55 Friday afternoon. He explained that there was a fault on the Yucatan grid which caused load shedding by the national grid in all areas except for parts of Cayo, Stann Creek, and Toledo; however, as BEL worked to restore power, the independent power producers (IPPs) were unable to handle the load and the entire grid went down.
“All the local IPPs were highly responsive during this critical time. When the grid collapsed that was during the restoration process, and as mentioned we did not have as much local supply to match the load so we lost the entire grid. The restoration took a little longer than we intended as we had some issues with the Vaca hydro plant and the gas turbine,” said Marin, who noted that with local supplies alone, BEL was able to restore all power within 2 ½ hours, before connecting back with Mexico. At the time of the outage, Belize was receiving the maximum 56 percent of electricity load from Mexico; the hydro supply was being conserved in accordance with company policy on a projected drought.
BEL Corporate Communications Director Dawn Sampson-Nunez noted that because something like this can happen again, especially because of internal challenges in Mexico such as poor weather, BEL is moving to re-configure the system to have local supply as the base rather than Mexico: “What we have as part of our active plans is to change the adjustment to that configuration – such that instead of our local generation supporting Mexico as a base load, it will be the other way around; the Mexican supply will support our local, in-country supply.” She added that this will go some way to ensuring reliability and a more seamless transition whenever Mexico goes down.
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