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Mar 15, 2011

P.U.C. wins case against Belize Electricity Limited

John Avery

The Public Utilities Commission won a suit brought on by Belize Electricity Limited. It was a big win for the P.U.C. that has been in an out of court in a number of cases with the electricity company. Earlier today the Supreme Court dismissed B.E.L.’s appeal was based on thirteen grounds against the P.U.C.’s final decision, following its 2008 Annual Tariff Review because it claimed that B.E.L. was charging consumers for expenditure that was not approved by the P.U.C. The matter has been before the courts for some time and now that the court has decided, it still won’t change the rates… at least for now. P.U.C. Chairman John Avery expects that there won’t be an immediate impact on consumers but when the P.U.C. conducts its next rate review, there may be some relief shown on electricity bills.

John Avery, P.U.C. Chairman

“The judge basically ruled in the P.U.C. favor for all the applications made by B.E.L. They had appealed our 2008 final decision for the rate review settings for July first, 2008 to June thirtieth, 2009.  And on several grounds they appealed that decision and today the judge basically denied all of their applications related to this matter.”

Jose Sanchez

“Does it have any impact for consumers?”

John Avery

“Well it won’t have any immediate impact. The rates that were set then continued to be charged, well they are continuing to be charged up to today. But those rates were set when the price of oil was at one hundred and forty odd dollars a barrel. Since then, the price of oil had dropped and it’s going back up, but it’s lower than then. What’s been happening is that the portion of rates that we set aside for the cost of power, B.E.L. has been collecting more than it has been spending. So there will be a surplus owed to consumers there—we have to assess this—and when we do a next rate review, then that will have an impact on the rates at that time going forward. But the rates that have been charged over the last two and a half years and up to today, those are already charged—you can’t go back and do anything about those. However, we will make the necessary corrections, looking forward when we do another rate review.”

Jose Sanchez

“I know B.E.L. has complained in the past of cash shortage. But when it comes to projects like the Mollejon which is purchased are there any implications?”

John Avery

“Well the judge agreed with the P.U.C.’s determination that we made way back from 2001 that that Mollejon Transmission Facility loan agreement that they had with BECOL, it was never approved. Basically B.E.L. on its own made that decision and paid that money. And that is money really that the Commission would like to see B.E.L. recover and reinvest in B.E.L. and in providing better service for the people of Belize. However, the best we can do is to take it out of consideration for rates. Whether or not B.E.L. is forced to recover that money is a matter for the shareholders of the company.”

A very short release from B.E.L. says that they are reviewing the eighty-one page decision handed down today by Supreme Court Justice Minnet Hafiz.

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