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Apr 22, 2005

P.U.C. agrees to higher electricity rates

It may be hard for some of us to think about a hike in electricity rates at a time when we are worried about just having a steady supply of current, but come July first, our light bills are going to get bigger. B.E.L. has been granted an increase of eight point six percent by the Public Utilities Commission. This means that where we now pay thirty-four point nine cents per kilowatt hour, we will soon have to pay and average of thirty-seven point nine cents. But before you start to rail up, you should know that things could have been worse. Back in March, B.E.L. had asked the P.U.C. for an almost fifteen percent rate hike, double what was granted. In addition to chopping its request, the P.U.C. also held B.E.L. at bay when it proposed increases in a number of fees it charges customers and declined to allow B.E.L. to impose a late fee on customers who do not pay their bills by the due date. In addition, the P.U.C. not only flatly rejected B.E.L.’s attempt to raise the fine for tampering with residential meters from one hundred to five hundred dollars, it pointed out that under the Electricity Act B.E.L. cannot legally charge anyone with tampering unless he or she has been convicted by a court. As for those hefty deposits, customers who have not been disconnected for twenty-four months will now be entitled to a full refund of their deposit upon request. And finally, all those who pay their bills early will be rewarded as B.E.L. institutes a discount plan for early payment. B.E.L. and consumers who collectively used at least ten percent of the energy supplied last year have until May third to file written comments on this initial decision. The P.U.C. says if they receive written objections from these parties, it will appoint an independent consultant to review the decision. For a full explanation of the proceedings, you can access a copy of the document at the Public Utility Commission’s office at sixty-three Regent Street in Belize City, or on their website at www.puc.bz.


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