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Fears of power crisis in Lesotho

The ’Muela Hydropower plant which generates some of Lesotho’s electricity is set to go under service for six months later this year. This has sparked fears that this could trigger a serious power crisis in Lesotho. The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) CEO, Tente Tente, told a press conference on Tuesday that they are going to clean the water transfer and delivery tunnels at ’Muela Dam starting from October.

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Tente said this will result in the shutdown of the water delivery system to South Africa and the generation of electricity for Lesotho for six months.
“Engagements with relevant stakeholders, for example, the Lesotho Electricity Company, to make arrangements for alternative electricity supply are ongoing,” Tente said.
“We have engaged thoroughly with the government in preparation for the eventuality,” he said.

The LHDA said it had since informed the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) about the plan and that it should start looking for other means to secure water for Gauteng province.

“There have been ongoing coordination with TCTA to ensure that they are also ready to do their part on the delivery tunnel north,” Tente said.

The LHDA says Lesotho is going to lose about M107 million in royalties from South Africa while the LEC will lose about M160 million in electricity sales.
Tente said the shutdown is part of a planned maintenance of key components of the water delivery system that transfers water from Katse to ’Muela as well as the delivery tunnel from ’Muela to Ash River Outfall in South Africa.

He said in 2019 it was found that the painting on the transfer and delivery tunnels was wearing off and they concluded that if left unattended for long, the pipes would corrode.

He said during the 2019 inspection experts said the tunnels could safely be operated for a period of five years, from October 2019 to October 2024.
He said it could not be guaranteed if the tunnels could be safely used beyond October 2024.

The LHDA said it will mitigate the risk of loss of royalties’ revenue by delivering more water before and after the outage.
’Muela Dam serves as a tail pond for the ’Muela hydropower station that generates electricity for Lesotho.

The dam is situated in the Nqoe catchment that is characterised by eroded landscape sediment which ends up in the reservoir.
He said an outside contractor, Corrocode SA Company, is ready to start work.

LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, was adamant that there will be no power crisis despite that ’Muela hydroelectricity plant will not be working for six months.
Ledia said the same thing happened in 2019 “and we had to partner with South Africa and Mozambique to generate electricity in that area”.

“It is true that South Africa is almost always in darkness because of load shedding but we are lucky that Basotho have not (experienced any) load shedding,” Ledia said.

“Even now we are still going to partner with those countries. We are going to lose nothing because the same value that was charged by ’Muela Hydropower Project will still be used,” he said.

“We will negotiate with our partners and use the same value that ’Muela charged us.”

Staff Reporter

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