BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 30, 2020– Recently, we reported on the Public Utilities Commission (PUC)’s move to “strong-arm” Belize Electricity Limited to sign a Power Purchase Agreement with Santander Sugar for the supply of energy to the national grid. The PUC asserted that as the sole utility regulator, they hold the responsibility to determine the terms of the agreement.
BEL has said that the PUC carried out negotiations without them at the table and cited various pitfalls in the agreement.
The PUC, however, evoked its authority under section 23 of the Electricity Act to oblige the government-owned utility company to comply with condition 17 of their license, which in effect gives the PUC the final say in the matter.
In comments made at a virtual press conference held on Wednesday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said that he has been asked by the chairman of BEL to intervene, and he went on to say that the dispute is a “healthy situation”.
Barrow said that “BEL is subject to the regulator, but the regulator, on the other hand, cannot operate in any kind of dictatorial, insensitive fashion that does not afford BEL a chance at due process.”
BEL said that they have begun to seek remedies to challenge the order laid down by the PUC.
Barrow said that he does not like the fact that the two entities are at loggerheads, and commented, “You got some very strong personalities at the PUC, and you got some strong personalities at BEL; I hope this is not just a matter of personality conflict.”
The Prime Minister said that his hope is that he “might be able to persuade them to settle their differences without pursuing litigation.”