THE government is finalising policies to increase the private sector’s participation in the energy sector to feed into the national grid and boost the country’s capacity to meet its power needs.
This was revealed by the Principal Energy Officer in the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology Jerry Seitlheko during an interview with Lesotho Times this week.
According to Mr Seitlheko, Lesotho’s domestic power production was 72 megawatts (MW) – which is way below the country’s base load requirement of 100MW.
The base load requirement measures demand for power during normal usage periods but demand can rise to as high as 150MW during peak times in winter.
As a result of the shortfall, he said Lesotho imports more than half of its power needs from neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique, increasing the country’s vulnerability to increased costs and power outages that it cannot control.
He said the ministry had noted with concern the private sector’s low participation in energy generation although interest had been there since 2008 when low generation capacity resulted in power outages in many countries in the southern Africa region.
“The Lesotho Energy Policy 2015-2020 shows that limited local generation capacity and the low household connections to electricity have created an opportunity for the private sector and cooperative associations to participate in power generation activities,” said Mr Seitlheko.
He said the government was working towards ensuring greater participation of the private sector which would also help to achieve the aim of meeting the 100MW base load requirement.
To this end, he said, the ministry was in the process of evaluating expressions of interest received from the private sector for the establishment of a solar power plant with a capacity to generate 20MW.
“The invitation was published towards the end of last year and we are currently working on evaluating the expressions of interest. When completed, the initiative will afford the private sector a chance to participate in energy production while also improving domestic power supply,” Mr Seitlheko said.
In addition to solar, he said the private sector is also encouraged to participate in mini hydro, wind and biomass power generation projects.
He said that as an added incentive to their participation, the government is also finalising a document that will support the purchase of power from the private sector.
Mr Seitlheko added: “Consultants engaged by the government have completed a final draft report on the Regulatory Framework for Development of Renewable Energy Resources in Lesotho, which will among other things, introduce a wholesale tariff that supports increased participation of the private sector and cooperative associations in bulk purchasing and retailing of electricity.”