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Mar 14, 2001

Mexican power failure causes blackouts in Belize

The case couldn’t have been made better had it been scripted in Hollywood. Yesterday’s message from B.E.L., based on a survey showing skyrocketing electricity rates around the Caribbean Islands, was that Belize should not rely on imported petroleum for its power needs. Today’s lesson, based on a massive generating failure in Mexico, is that we ought to be careful about depending on our neighbour to the north as well. A release from Belize Electricity Limited explains that a number of outages were experience on Tuesday in Belize due to the sudden failure of a large generating plant near Merida. Mexico’s Comision Federal de Electricidad informed B.E.L. that CFE would not be able to meet its obligation to sell Belize electricity during the peak period of 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. As a result, Dangriga was blacked out for two hours last night while several areas in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts lost power for shorter periods. Today the situation is not likely to improve as Mexico is still unable to supply current. The problem is aggravated by the fact that one of the Mollejon Hydro Plant’s three turbines is down for routine maintenance. If it can be put on line in time for tonight’s peak period, then blackouts will be limited to one hour rolling outages in parts of San Ignacio, Corozal and Orange Walk. If not then the situation should be similar to Tuesday. It is not known how soon the Mexican situation will improve. At present B.E.L.’s generating capacity consists of the Mollejon plant assisted by two fixed diesel units in Belmopan and at Magazine Road in Belize City. Six mobile diesel generators are also spread around the country. B.E.L. plans to construct a dam and turbine at Chalillo which would greatly increase the company’s generating capacity, particularly during the dry season. The project is awaiting the completion of an environmental impact study.

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