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Jul 26, 2017

BELCOGEN: ‘Piece of Junk’ or Worth Saving?

Jose Mai

Seven years ago, the Belize Co-Generation Energy Project kicked off at Tower Hill, Orange Walk. It uses bagasse from milled sugar to provide up to twenty-five megawatts of electricity for the national electricity grid and another five for the B.S.I. plant itself. But there are concerns that the plant has not been reaching capacity and farmers wonder whether it’s a worthwhile investment. Cane farmer and Orange Walk South area representative Jose Mai, while discussing issues within the industry, issued a withering criticism of the project. But A.S.R. vice-president Celestino Ruiz says they have not given up on the project yet.

 

Jose Mai, Area Rep., Orange Walk South

“It is just about now that A.S.R. has come out very clearly and said, listen: BELCOGEN is not working; it’s not functioning; it’s not going to generate the amount of money to recover what we have invested. It’s like you bought a car for ten thousand dollars, you invest ten thousand-plus, and the car is still not working to its capacity; so you will never be able to run taxi and pay for that car itself. So the brutal truth about BELCOGEN, while the concept was a great concept, the investment was a bad one and farmers will never get money out of BELCOGEN for their bagasse so we need to start to forget that. Now the farmer may argue the point: what am I to see with that? You made the investment, not me; why am I supposed to pay for this? The harsh truth is that co-generation plant, BELCOGEN, will never pay [for] itself; the amount of money that they have put into that piece of junk, they will never be able to pay for that. That is the harsh truth.”

 

Celestino Ruiz

Celestino Ruiz, Vice-President, A.S.R.

“From an operational perspective we continue to invest in BELCOGEN, to improve some of the inefficiencies and eliminate the inefficiencies that we have. It is something that we have been doing since we have arrived and something that we will continue to do. We want it to be more reliable and have less downtime; that’s the biggest thing to tackle there. So it’s a strong preventive maintenance and capital program to make sure that’s occurring, so that we have the steam generation to grind the cane that’s out there.”

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