Features — 18 July 2014 — by Adele Ramos
Bamboo energy proposal replaces cohune

PUC chair says solar power may come online as early as 2015

Belize’s energy demand continues to rise and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is pressing ahead with its review of 22 proposals from both local and foreign entities which mostly propose to provide renewable energy to the expanding national grid.

In response to our request for an update, PUC chairman John Avery told Amandala that the assessment should be complete by the end of this month, and by August, they intend to have the bids ranked in order of priority.

Avery told us that while some of the new power sources may take some time to come on-stream, they hope that solar power could be added to the mix by next year, 2015.

As Amandala has previously reported, a call was made for 75 MW of power, preferably biomass or renewable energy, with 15 MW designated to wind and/or solar power.

Blair Atoll Power Company Limited, formerly Belize Aquaculture Limited (BAL), a Barry Bowen company, has submitted proposals for solar, gas and heavy fuel power. Information provided to us by the PUC indicates that that company already has a plant interconnected with BEL. The PUC was looking for a price of US17 cents or less per kilowatt hour for solar power, and they got 5 bids below that price.

Avery told us that the PUC was hoping that the biomass proposals would have been more firm, but some bidders are modifying their ideas.

One such case is the proposal to produce power from cohune. That investor is now proposing to use bamboo.

The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan has publicized a study, Electrical Valorization of Bamboo in Africa, on the possible use of bamboo for power generation in Rwanda using different production options.

“The bamboo strictly as a source for electricity is okay. The cohune had other benefits in the sense that we could produce cohune oil and that would have created jobs…,” Avery said, adding that the cohune proposal would have had a bigger economic impact.

He said they will list all the bidders, and look at each one to assess how it fits within Belize’s electricity profile.

“It’s a lot of work. Some of the projects, they don’t give you enough details to properly assess them,” said Avery. He said that they are still in the process of clarifying the information contained in some of the proposals.

By the end of August, they will prioritize the bids, and Avery said that if they can’t work out an agreement with a bidder on the top of the list, they will then explore the option provided by the next bidder. He said that they are being cautious about ruling out certain options, because a bidder with a very good concept may end up deciding that they are no longer interested in the project.

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