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Jun 4, 1999

BEL looks to the Central American Grid

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Although Belize is already buying electricity from Mexico, BEL is now looking for ways to obtain power from our other Central American neighbors, and to even sell them electricity. Today a representative from SIEPAC, the Electrical Interconnection System of the countries of Central America, spoke to BEL engineers and top management about the benefits of Belize hooking up to the grid.

Lynn Young, CEO Belize Electricity Limited

“We have that vision ourselves to try and get Belize into a larger power market, so we can buy cheaper power and build bigger generating plants and have a place to sell excess power. Because we have a small market, and that is one of the reasons why our cost is so high. Any big generation project that we build, you know people have to be paying for capacity that they don’t use. So there’s an opportunity here for us if we can get into this we will also be able to build bigger plants and to sell Central America as well as buying from Central American, buying from Panama, from Costa Rica. Right now we are buying from Mexico, and we hope to try and get a connection to Peten.”

“We have to change the monopoly status of power in Belize to certain extent. Things like distribution will probably have to continue to be a monopoly but for generating power, worldwide now they’re moving out of the monopoly situation and have a situation where people can build power plants and buy power. And we have already begun in Belize, there’s BECOL where we buy power, we’re buying power from Mexico and hopefully we’ll be able to buy from

out other places soon.”

While Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are already interconnected, Young says a transmission grid has to be built that connects all the countries. A Corporation composed of investors from the region will establish a “wheeling fee” or price for sending power across the grid. Individual countries, or large industrial buyers, would then negotiate their price for power and pay the wheeling fee to the country or countries facilitating the supply of electricity. But don’t expect Belize to begin using, or making money off the grid immediately. Lynn Young says it took five years for Belize to become interconnected to Mexico and it will be a similar time frame before there is full integration with Central America. In the meantime BEL will become an observer member of SIEPAC before becoming a full member and work on making the connection with the Peten region of Guatemala.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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