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BEL updates the public on scheduled power outages

HeadlineBEL updates the public on scheduled power outages

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Wed. May 8, 2024

Belize continues to experience widespread power outages, as Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) continues scrambling to address the shortfall in its power generation capacity.

The country’s current in-country capacity stands at 95 megawatts, insufficient to meet peak demands, and that insufficiency has neared crisis levels due to the current inability of Mexico’s Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) to supply an adequate amount of additional power, as it has done over the years, due to its own demand pressures.

The situation, announced last Monday, has led to multiple blackouts across Belize, including a 13-hour power outage on Wednesday, May 1, that affected San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. Yesterday, other areas such as Ladyville, Lake Independence, San Ignacio, Orange Walk, Corozal, Belmopan, and Dangriga, also experienced blackouts, with power outages scheduled between 7:00 p.m. and midnight.

In most instances, the ongoing shortages are largely due to delays in upgrading the Westlake generator, which is critical to increasing the country’s power generation capacity.

BEL had initiated upgrades in early April to increase the generator’s output from 19 megawatts to 30 megawatts. However, the completion of these upgrades has been postponed to the end of this week.

What has frustrated many students, employers, businesses, organizations, etc., are multiple unexpected blackouts that they say have deviated from schedules published by BEL.

With electricity supply becoming such an unpredictable matter, today BEL’s Chief Executive Officer, John Mencias, described what it takes to balance out the country’s electricity capacity.

He noted that during peak hours, which is in the mid-afternoon, the demand spikes to about 125 MW; and between 7:00 p.m. and midnight, it ranges from 110 MW to 115 MW. With only 95 MW available locally and an additional 55 MW expected from CFE only until 7:00 p.m., the country faces a shortfall post-7:00 p.m. when Mexican supply is anticipated to cease.

“As a result, we are forecasting a generation shortage of around 20 MW between 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and around 15 MW from 9:30 p.m. to midnight,” he noted.

To mitigate this, BEL has planned a load shedding schedule which involves turning off power to about 5 to 8 feeders between 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and another 4 to 6 feeders from 9:30 p.m. until midnight.

Major resorts and manufacturers with onsite standby generators have been requested to activate their generators around 6:30 p.m. to reduce the load on the grid. “We can only be sure when 7:00 p.m. comes and we see what the actual demand is,” Mencias added.

He also noted that the load-shedding plans and outage schedules could be abruptly altered, as was recently the case when CFE required BEL to cut their power intake earlier than expected.

The detailed explanation posted on their social media platform has been received with understanding and appreciation by some members of the public, who now have a clearer picture of the challenges faced and the efforts being made to stabilize power supply in Belize.

Some residents have also offered suggestions for coping with the blackouts, especially in inland areas where temperatures are rising.

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