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Mar 14, 2019

B.E.L.’s Plan to Connect Caye Caulker to National Electricity Grid

Caye Caulker is a top tourism destination for visitors who enjoy the charm and sleepiness of the village. But the island is not powered through the national grid and instead relies on generators for electricity.  Today, the Belize Electricity Limited took the media to the island where it showed how it intends to use submarine cable via nearby San Pedro to get Caye Caulker electrified. The project is estimated at fifteen million dollars. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

For many decades, Caye Caulker has been powered by a diesel generator which provides electricity to homes and businesses across the island.  Not only does B.E.L. pay a hefty fuel bill on an annual basis, there is also great risk in transporting fuel by sea from the mainland.  Along with fast-paced development on La Isla Carinosa, the utility company is forced to explore other means of electrifying island.  One such alternative is the installation of a submarine cable from neighboring San Pedro.

 

Kevin Petzold

Kevin Petzold, Project Manager, B.E.L.

“The project, as you’d say, is to add Caye Caulker to the grid.  So the project would start from a takeoff on the southern tip of San Pedro and go across the Hol Chan Marine Reserve at six miles and land on the northern island of Caye Caulker.  The preferred route is south of the forest reserve.  At that point it goes underground until it reaches the Split and then it goes under the split and from there it goes to the existing generation station which will then become a substation.”

 

In order to execute the plan, Belize Electricity Limited undertook a feasibility study and an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report was submitted to the Department of the Environment.  According to Project Manager Kevin Petzold, the reason for expansion is twofold.

 

Kevin Petzold

“There are two reasons, the growth of Caye Caulker in terms of their tourism and the general growth and also, it’s not sustainable to keep the generators running to provide the kind of supply that Caye Caulker would need.  So it’s planning for the future and also taking the environment into consideration.”

 

In October 2018, B.E.L. conducted a site tour of possible routes.  The company also met with various stakeholders.  The idea is to connect Caye Caulker to the national electricity grid, much the same way that San Pedro is linked to that system via submarine cable from Bomba.  At an estimated cost of fifteen million dollars, the bundle of heavily insulated electrical wires will cross the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

 

Kevin Petzold

“B.E.L. is being very responsible in that manner, in fact that’s one of the key things we have been in very close consultation with the Hol Chan Marine [Reserve] office and they have joined us in going in the field and putting in their part in terms of the project.  So their input has been heavily considered and they are going along the journey with us in terms of the design.”

 

Despite a plan having been put together, B.E.L. is still consulting with residents.  A public meeting is set for next Thursday to discuss Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report.

 

Kevin Petzold

“We’re at the early stage because we are currently at the public consultation period for the ESIA with DOE.  So we’re at the preliminary stage in terms of costing and design, but a rough figure is about fifteen million Belize dollars.”

 

Reporter

“And the funding, where will you get funding from?”

 

Kevin Petzold

“The funding, we are currently in discussion with the Caribbean Development Bank. I think we were successful in San Pedro and we’d like to see the same level of success for Caye Caulker where the outage has reduced dramatically over the last few years.  The line itself, the submarine cable has not experienced any issue for over twenty years.  Any outage would be based on before or after the line, but not the line itself, so we think that that is definitely a game changer for Caye Caulker.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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