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Upgrades plus high usage means more blackouts

BELIZE CITY, Belize — Belizeans experienced widespread blackouts on Monday night due to load shedding initiated by Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) after the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) in Mexico curtailed power supply amidst increased local demand.


This recurrent issue underscores the vulnerabilities in Belize's electricity network during the dry season.

BEL's General Manager for Distribution, Jose Moreno, addressed the public's concerns at a press conference on Tuesday. He explained the circumstances leading to the outages and outlined the company's strategies to mitigate future disruptions. He explained that CFE Mexico communicated the need to curtail power; therefore, BEL had to activate all available generation, which proved insufficient. This resulted in the company having to engage load shedding by opening some distribution feeders to balance the load.


The electricity shortfall was further compounded by a nationwide power failure on Tuesday morning, triggered by a burnt cross-arm in Corozal. Despite the district remaining unaffected, the incident disrupted power across other parts of Belize. BEL technicians have temporarily repaired the cross-arm, restoring electricity, but the event highlighted ongoing issues with local generation capacity and startup challenges with several units, including the gas turbines that normally provide backup power.


BEL anticipates these challenges will continue over the next thirty days, as the gas turbine at Mile Eight undergoes upgrades, removing twenty megawatts from Belize's power capacity. He explained that the company is nearing the completion of the third week of the upgrade, with GE and other contractors actively working on turbine replacement. This vulnerability prompted BEL to proactively inform customers about the potential for increased outages during this period.


In response to the recurring disruptions and to bolster in-country generation, BEL has procured a new gas turbine for San Pedro. However, this equipment has not yet been commissioned and is not expected to be operational until May or June. Moreno disclosed these details while discussing the broader impacts on Belize's electrical infrastructure.


The utility company remains hopeful that once the upgrades at Mile Eight and the new installation in San Pedro are complete, they will sufficiently compensate for any future power cuts from CFE Mexico, thereby enhancing the reliability of Belize's electrical supply during the critical dry season.

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