. . 20 000 people to benefit from rural electrification project
THE European Union (EU)’s Electrification Finance Initiative (ElectriFI) and the United Kingdom (UK)’s Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP) have injected a combined €8, 8 million (about M150 million) towards the installation of 10 solar power mini-grids in rural Lesotho.
The investment into the project vehicle, Sotho Minigrid Portfolio SPV, owned by OnePower Lesotho Pty Ltd, will fund the construction of 10 mini-grids with a total capacity of providing 1,8 MW of electricity.
The project is expected to benefit at least 20 000 people and seven clinics in the rural areas of Lesotho.
The areas where the mini-grids will be constructed are Matsoaing, Thlanyaku, Sehlabathebe, Lebakeng, Tosing, Sebapala, Sehonghong, Mashai, Ribaneng and Ketane.
OnePower CEO, Matthew Orosz, confirmed the funding deal by ElectriFI and REPP.
“I am thrilled to close on this landmark mini-grid transaction with two excellent investors,” Mr Orosz said in a press statement.
“As a team with deep roots in Lesotho, we are proud that this will not only connect 20 000 people to electricity, but also create renewable energy engineering and manufacturing capacity in the country.
“I want to extend my gratitude to the hard-working team at OnePower as well as the numerous partners who have ensured the success of this project, most notably Lesotho’s Ministry of Energy and Meteorology as well as Michael Feldner of GET.invest,” Mr Orosz said.
GET.invest is an initiative set up by the EU and several of its member countries to support investments in decentralised renewable energy.
According to the REPP website, “Lesotho has one of the lowest electrification rates in Africa, with about 62 percent of the population lacking access to electricity and with a rural electrification rate estimated at below 20 percent”.
Not only will the construction of the mini-grids raise the level of electrification in Lesotho, the project will also create 100 jobs during the construction phase and six permanent jobs thereafter.
OnePower was founded by Mr Orosz, a US citizen who first came to Lesotho as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2000 and served up to 2002.
Living in the Phamong village without electricity during his stint as a volunteer inspired him to take up a career in designing energy infrastructure solutions.
He first founded STG International, a non-profit dedicated to energy access and technology transfer. In 2015, he founded OnePower, a for-profit but socially motivated business.
“Since 2015 the primary goal of OnePower has been working to attract investment to the renewable energy sector in Lesotho to make energy access projects a reality for these communities.
“As a social enterprise, a major portion of OnePower’s profits are reinvested to maximise our ability to provide quality services to off-grid communities at affordable costs,” OnePower states on its website.
OnePower is also in the process of developing a 20 megawatt (MW) solar Photo Voltaic (PV) plant, the first utility-scale solar PV project in the country.
When complete, the plant which is expected to feed at least 13 percent of the country’s electric power demands into the national grid in the district of Mafeteng.
This will result in greater national independence in power supply and savings on the import bill through a gradual phase-out of power imports from Mozambique and a reduction of coal-generated power imports from South Africa.
The reduction of coal-generated power imports is also in line with worldwide trends of achieving clean power generations and reducing carbon emissions which contribute to climate change.