by Meb Cutlack
Fortis Inc, BEL and our deceitful PUP government have all along cited the cost of the Chalillo dam at $30,000,000 but now it is revealed that the dam has cost $100,000,000.
What does this mean for Belizeans? It means staggeringly high electricity bills for Belizeans for the next 50 years and huge profits for Fortis Inc, in Canada and for their servants here. It also means that any hope of cheaper electricity for Belizeans (from sources such as biomass, or even from our own high quality recently discovered oil) will not bring down the cost of electricity because Fortis will demand their pound of flesh first - in U.S dollars.
The crazy and illegal charade of BTL going to money lenders to get overpriced U.S dollar to pay its foreign owners will seem nothing compared to what BEL has to do in the future to pay Fortis its blood money in U.S currency.
The PUP government has, by its stupidity and greed in flogging off all of Belize’s utilities (and everything else like the Ports, the Fort George area, the Printers, and the Airport) sold off at fire sale prices the birthright of all Belizeans and it has mortgaged the future of generations of Belizeans yet unborn.
As an industry source pointed out: “ This is certainly one of the most expensive dams per megawatt in history: about $20 million U.S. per megawatt, where a viable dam costs about $1 million per megawatt.”
It means in fact that Belize has an amortized debt to the tune of approximately 500 billion dollars or 2,000,000 per head to be paid by 2040 , and that’s just for electricity. Don’t begin to think telephone or even water (when that’s resold to foreigners again) because the figures are too horrendous to contemplate.
And now, besides having possibly the most expensive electricity in the world, Belize has the honour of being the ‘star’ of all of Fortis’s energy companies - returning, quarter after quarter, the proportionately highest earnings of any of the company’s subsidiaries.
On reason why this is so is that all of the dam’s electricity output is sold to Belize Electricity under a 50-year franchise and ‘Power Purchase Agreement’ via the Corporation’s wholly owned indirect subsidiary, (BECOL) Belize Electric Company Limited. Thanks to the PUP government’s illegal generosity they are the ‘seller’ and ‘buyer’ of their own product and so can play prices however they like and not even the PUC can deny them their right.
Look at it this way: Fortis via BEL decide what BECOL’s output cost them and there is no way to dispute their figures. It is through this monopolistic control that, while Lynn Young preaches poverty and the need for rate rise, the profits of Fortis’s Belize operations continue to rise and Belize, far from being a lame duck for Fortis, is their proportionately highest earner.
Now Fortis say they must raise rates by 10% because of Chalillo! It is past time that the PUC not only looked into the per kw energy charge sold by BECOL to BEL but also went through Fortis’s own balance sheet and annual returns. It's also essential that Fortis not be allowed maintain their monopoly over pricing by pleading how much Chalillo cost them - and insisting that this debt has to be repaid before any competition is allowed into the electricity market.
The 10% increase which Fortis say they have to charge to recover their investment (about fivefold) means that BEL/BECOL have already or are now renegotiating the previously secret 3rd Master agreement with our crooked government. I ask the BEL and the PUC, ‘Yes or No?’
And, I ask that the Belizean people also demand answers to these questions. Not Fortis, BEL or the Government of Belize have the right to continually ride roughshod over law, the constitution and all decency. If they are unable to account truthfully then they must be held to account by public demand.
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