THE Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) has warned Basotho to brace for possible power cuts after the authority recently temporarily ceased electricity power generation for domestic consumption at its ‘Muela Hydropower Station.
The LHDA also temporarily halted transferring water to South Africa.
This was said by the LHDA’s chief executive officer, Tente Tente, when he appeared before a recent session of the parliamentary portfolio committee on natural resources.
Mr Tente said the temporary shutdown had been done to pave way for maintenance work at the plant.
He said the maintenance work at the power station was part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project’s (LHWP) routine inspection and maintenance of its assets which commenced on 1 October 2019 and is expected to be completed on 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 supplies about 30 percent of Lesotho’s power needs with Mozambique contributing 20 percent of the consumption.
The LHDA said the duration of the maintenance woks would completely cut off water transfer to South Africa and power generation for Lesotho.
Mr Tente warned electricity consumers to ready for possible power cuts in the event that South Africa, which exports electricity to Lesotho, faces power shortages up to December 2019.
“We have already stopped operations and there is no water transfer and no electricity production. People should be warned that they will have no electricity if there were to be load shedding in South Africa,” Mr Tente said.
Mr Tente said they had requested for M40 million from the government for the inspection and maintenance of water tunnels and replacement of old machines but the money was yet to be released.
“We are still in talks with the government so that we can get the M40 million for the maintenance,” Mr Tente said.
However, Water minister Samonyane Ntsekele recently said the Ministry of Finance had approved the LHDA’s request. He said M20 million would be released “immediately” while the balance would be disbursed in tranches.
“The LHDA has requested M40 million for the maintenance that is done every 10 years. The Ministry of Finance has approved the money and M20 will be given immediately while the rest will be given in tranches,” Mr Ntsekele said.
Mr Tente also said that excess water has already been supplied to South African reservoirs as contingency plan in case unforeseen circumstances delay the expected resumption of normal business on 1 December 2019.
As such, he assured the parliamentary committee that Lesotho would not lose any income due to the suspended water supply.
“There will not be any loss of royalties. We have supplied more water to cover for the time that the transfer of water will have been stopped which means that excess water would have been paid for,” he said.
A statement from the LHDA said the routine inspection and maintenance was performed jointly with the South Africa’s Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) as a follow up to the works undertaken in 2012.
“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,” said the statement.
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 Africa side of the border, the statement said.