By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC)’s Managing Director Mohato Seleke has yesterday cautioned that they can move into a paradigm where they are unable to keep the lights on if the clients do not settle their outstanding fees.

He said the demand of electricity is too high during the winter period.

Seleke said unlike other utilities, LEC imports much energy from outside.

The MD said in June last year, the country consumed 196 megawatts of electricity.

He said, ‘Muela Hydropower Station produces only 72 megawatts, a far cry from what the country needs. He said one of the turbines broke in ‘Muela last year, and it has not been replaced saying this turbine could produces 24 megawatts saying now Lesotho produces 48 megawatts.

LEC procures additional power from South Africa’s Eskom and Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM) in Mozambique. 

He said the more SA faces power crisis, the more expensive it is for Lesotho adding that they are already paying 18.69 percent effective from April that Eskom had implemented.

In Mozambique, he said the country uses American dollars to purchase power in that country.

“How are we spared more so, that our turbine is approaching a year since it last broke. How are we able to keep the lights on amid these situations,” he posed adding that Lesotho is “increasingly becoming an island”.

LEC’s MD said it is high time that the country ponder on this question.

He said it is every client’s responsibility to pay for the electricity services. 

Seleke said it is not easy for the utility to stay afloat.

“Consumers, businesses and government institutions should help us to pay for the electricity,” he said.

He said the utility is owed M57 million, public sector over M80 million and lastly M102 million all these debts are as at Monday this week.

“How do you think we survive?”

He said effective from June 1, for peak time (5pm- 7pm) LEC will be spending M5.22 per unit and from (7am-10am).

“It’s extremely difficult to keep [the company] afloat ” he said.

Seleke said Lesotho’s economy is “so weak” that they do not want to expose its power outages.

“Pay the debt, to avoid danger,” he warned saying he is “blowing the trumpet to avoid danger ahead”.

The MD said in other jurisdictions within the region, the utilities receive subvention fund from their respective governments whereas LEC does not get any subsidies.

The government last afforded LEC M45 million in 2014 for maintenance network.

The LEC has implemented a series of measures aimed at curbing electricity defaulters, resulting in severe consequences for various institutions.

Among those affected were the High Court, where judicial proceedings were disrupted, and the Government Secretary, who was forced to work remotely due to the disconnections that were effected in his offices owing to outstanding electricity bills.

Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) had also been a victim of disconnection earlier this year, the move that prompted an intervention by the parliament’s Natural Resources Portfolio Committee. The nation found itself grappling with a distressing water shortage, lasting for several days.

The bold move taken by LEC to disconnect the defaulting clients had far-reaching implications for both government institutions and to citizens alike. With the High Court experiencing power disconnection, the administration of justice faced challenges that translated to delaying legal processes and inconveniencing all parties involved.

The disruptions had an effect on the efficiency and productivity of the government’s operations.

He said the disconnections happen when all avenues had been exhausted by the utility to engage the clients but sometimes some clients “disregard us”.

Despite effecting disconnections, he said there has not been any “difference “.

Seleke appealed to consumers to make arrangements with the utility on how they can service their debt.

The government has embarked on a journey to produce renewable energy. Government had built a solar plant at Ha-Ramarothole, Mafeteng which is expected to produce about 30 megawatts, a move that is expected to provide some relief to the utility.

At this stage, the MD said the solar plant produces intermittent power as it is dependent on sunlight.  He also pointed out that at this stage there are plans for the plant to join the LEC network.

Seleke said in the previous financial year, 2022/2023 the utility has spent in excess of M800 million on bulk power that it procures from Mozambique and Eskom, the figure he said does not reflect the tarrifs imposed for the current financial year.

“I have to collect the debts, otherwise…,” he said.

End of June, Seleke said for the first time we are going to submit a “cost-reflective tariff” and a multi-year application to the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA).

We are transitioning into a cost-reflective tariff and multi-year. He said there should be lot of local power generation but the market should deliver competitive prices for sustainability.