By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane
MAFETENG- The Prime Minister (PM) Rt. Hon Samuel Matekane has said the country is intending to sell power to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) pool.
He announced these plans earlier this week during the launch and handover ceremony of the Phase I project of Ramarothole Solar Power Station in Mafeteng.
The completed Phase I has a generation capacity of 30 megawatts (MW).
This facility is expected to help the country to reduce the high costs of electricity imports.
‘Muela Hydropower Station produces only 72 MW, 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 produce 24 megawatts saying now Lesotho produces 48 MW.
The PM said the Phase II of the project that is expected to generate an additional 50 MW, he wants it complete by December 2024. He said it will bring Lesotho closer to reaching energy sufficiency and position it to export to the regional pool.
He further highlighted that the plans are afoot for the country to explore generation of power through renewable methods as per the international treaties that Lesotho is party of. It would be recalled that the goal No.7 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) calls for clean renewable energy.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Natural Resources Hon Mohlomi Moleko said, ‘Muela Hydropower Station will be forced to close for six months next year while undergoing major repairs.
Recently, the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) Managing Director, Mohato 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 tariffs imposed for the current financial year.
It should also be expected that by the end of this month, for the first time LEC is going to submit a “cost-reflective tariff” and a multi-year application to the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA).
The utility’s MD said they are transitioning into a cost-reflective tariff and multi-year. He said there should be a lot of local power generation but the market should deliver competitive prices for sustainability.
Meanwhile there is a growing electricity demand within the SADC region and some countries such as Lesotho and South Africa are importing power from Mozambique.
The Oxbow Hydropower Scheme which is the component of Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is set to generate 80 MW of electricity, an addition to ‘Muela Hydropower. However, this project is likely to kick off after completion of Polihali Dam which is slated for 2028.
Oxbow Hydropower will address Lesotho power challenges when complete.
Although Lesotho partly experiences load shedding challenges with the districts of Qacha’s Nek and Mokhotlong that are connected to the Eskom grid, the country had last experienced this problem back in 2008.
LEC’s MD had warned that the country could descend into darkness if their defaulting clients do not settle their debts with the utility. The utility is owed M239 million by its clients and has appealed to those owing to make arrangements with them on how and when to settle their debts.