Lesotho’s Power Potential
Africa Oil & Power Interviews Refiloe Matekane Chairman of the Board Lesotho Electricity Company.
What challenges is Lesotho currently facing in electrifying the country, and how are these challenges being met?
Lesotho does not have a large population – 2 million. Most of the population resides in rural areas, which are very mountainous, and most of our villages are spread sparingly across the country. As a result, electrification of these villages is quite problematic. The government has invested in a rural electrification project and is working hard to electrify most of the areas, with a target of 30,000 connections every year. However, it still remains a problem and the cost of electrifying rural areas is going up. That said, we are still managing to achieve our targets of 30,000 to 50,000 connections per year.
What major projects are currently in the pipeline?
We have a very old transmission network that we are looking to refurbish to extend to the new mining projects, so we need to build new transmission and distribution lines, which requires funding. There is a lot of revenue in the cannabis industry in Lesotho, which started in 2017. It is a sector that requires substantial energy and electricity, so we are working to electrify those projects. Transmission projects are a current priority for us. The issue is funding, so we are speaking to a few funding institutions to see how we can get these projects going.
How would you characterize Lesotho’s power generation potential?
We generate hydropower through the Muela hydropower station, which supplies about 50% of Lesotho’s energy needs. We import the other 50% from other countries. Now, as the prices are going up, we want to increase our generation capacity. We have potential in hydropower, solar and wind, which make up the three renewables. We have conducted studies on wind and solar and have identified potential for hydro. We just gave a license to an Independent Power Producer (IPP) in solar for about 80 megawatts. There is strong potential for IPPs to enter the market at a good price and supply Lesotho with electricity.
What is the outlook for Lesotho’s energy sector?
Our priority is to generate more than we can consume. In addition, we are seeking to build an alliance with the Southern African Power Pool to export electricity to the Southern Africa region and to trade electricity in the area. We are definitely on a drive to develop generation and increase transmission and networking in the country, thereby creating a more reliable energy source and cheaper costs of supplying through affordable energy prices.