Power outages continued
to plague the island, as well as mainland Belize this week. Once again,
dust contamination due to extremely dry weather conditions was to blame
for the damage done to electrical lines.
According to Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), at 4:35
a.m. on Monday, May
19th, 2003, dust
contamination caused the initial fault, which affected the national grid
and subsequently the 115Kv transmission line that transmits electricity
from Mexico to the remainder of the country. This fault resulted in a
total system outage.
Electrical service was restored to all areas on the
national grid, except San Pedro by 7:00 a.m. BEL reverted to standby
generators on the island to power up Feeders #1 and #2 by 7:30 a.m. The
line was successfully repaired by 10:45 a.m., but a "flashover" caused a
transformer in the Boca del Rio area of San Pedro to malfunction as soon
as the power was restored. A second transformer enabled BEL to provide
power to the north end of the island by early morning Tuesday, but this
was short lived. By 8:00 a.m. it was necessary to cut the current again
in order to repair the first transformer. According to residents in the
Tres Cocos area, power was totally restored to North Ambergris Caye at
approximately 5:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, a mere 25 hours later.
Reportedly this is not the only "fault" caused by dust
contamination in the past month that has affected the national grid and
caused power outages to several areas of the country. Following last
week's power outage, The San Pedro Sun
suggested to Neville Samuels, BEL's Corporate Communications Manager,
that some type of preventative maintenance, or washing down of the
electrical lines be performed; this method had given the island some
reprieve from outages in previous dry months. He replied that this
particular activity would require the power to
be cut off for a short period,
causing further inconvenience to consumers. On Monday, though, according
to Mr. Samuels, preventative maintenance was initiated during the hours
the country was again, without power.
A statement by BEL President and Chief
Executive Officer Lynn Young on Monday revealed, "We have been having an
unusual amount of unanticipated problems with our power lines during this
harsh dry season... We have never had this problem on mainland Belize
before, and we will continue to monitor this situation."
A recent energy supply problem in Mexico has also
forced the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) to shed the load across
Mexico, and to lessen the amount of electricity provided for sale to
Belize. In addition to this, water levels at Belize's Mollejon Hydro
Plant are extremely low which adds to the shortage of electricity needed
for the country. BEL announced they are currently in the process of
installing a 22MW gas turbine that will be completed by August of this
year. According to Neville Samuels, "When completed, this project will
certainly insulate the country from exposure to shortages in
The people of Belize certainly hope this is the truth,
as they cannot afford to lose further business or electrical appliances
due to the current inadequate and erratic supply of electricity. In
regards to this issue, Mr. Samuels assured that, "all 'legitimate claims'
of losses due to these power outages are being considered." Many other
angry BEL customers expressed their suspicions that these unplanned
outages were a means to convince the population to support BEL's planned
Chalillo Dam. BEL denied this accusation.