LESOTHO will for the next two months completely depend on imported electricity during routine maintenance of the ‘Muela Hydropower Station.
The maintenance of the power station is part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project’s (LHWP) assets’ routine inspection and maintenance works which started on 1 October and runs until 30 November 2019.
The maintenance works are jointly done through the two implementing agencies namely the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) and the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA).
About 50 percent of Lesotho’s power consumption is produced locally with the remainder imported from South Africa and Mozambique.
South Africa is estimated to supply 30 percent of Lesotho’s power needs with Mozambique contributing 20 percent of the consumption.
The rest of the power comes from the ‘Muela Hydropower Station , which produces about 72 megawatts (MW).
The LHDA said the duration of the maintenance works would completely cut off water transfer to South Africa and power generation for Lesotho.
“In order to ensure that the inspection and maintenance workers can gain access to the tunnels, there would be a stoppage of water transfer to South Africa and electricity generation in Lesotho,” LHDA’s Divisional Manager-Development and Operations, Reentseng Molapo said.
“This means that during this period, Lesotho will not be generating its own electricity but will rely on supply from ESKOM in South Africa and the EDM in Mozambique.”
Mr Molapo said in preparation for the outage, a number of contracts for the work to be done and equipment to be replaced were awarded. He said they have also held several technical meetings and trainings since the commencement of the planning for the outage. The maintenance workers have also been given training on safety in the tunnels, first aid and use of breathing apparatuses in cases where air within the tunnel is insufficient.
The LDHA said the maintenance works are meant to ensure sustainable operation of the project components to ensure that the authority delivers on its mandate of generating hydropower in Lesotho and transferring high quality water to South Africa.
“The focus is to ensure continued sustainable operations and service of the tunnels and all electro-mechanical components from the Katse Intake Tower, through ‘Muela Power Station to the Ash River Outfall. In addition to the inspection of the tunnel condition, the LHDA will undertake installation of new state of the art water flow metres at Ngoajane flow measuring station and replace the valve at the ‘Muela Hydropower Station bypass. The TCTA is also undertaking routine inspection and maintenance work within the South African side of the border.”
The first part of the operation, which is the repair work on the Katse intake commenced on 19 September 2019 while water delivery and hydropower generation stopped at midnight of 30 September 2019. The electricity generation and the water delivery to South Africa will resume at midnight on 30 November 2019.
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Electricity Company’s (LEC) public relations manager Tšepang Ledia, has said the stoppage of power generation at ‘Muela for two months would not have any impact on the consumers.
He said Eskom has assured them that it will be able to close the gap left by ‘Muela.
“The change in power supplier will not affect consumers at all, in fact they will not even notice there has been a change.
“Eskom has assured us that it will be able to supply the required power capacity as ‘Muela, so there is nothing to worry about. However, should there be unforeseen challenges, we may have to introduce load shedding. But this is highly unlikely,” Mr Ledia said.
He said the change of power supplier would also not affect power charges. He admitted however, that LEC will spend more on purchasing power from South Africa than it was spending for purchasing power from ‘Muela.