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Lesotho gets raw deal

IT is becoming clear that Lesotho got a raw deal when it signed the agreement for the second phase of the Lesotho Highland Water Project (LHWP).
As our Page 4 story reveals, the plan to build a hydropower station as part of the water project had collapsed.
That means the sole purpose of the second phase of the LHWP will be to deliver water to South Africa.
This is contrary to spirit of the 1986 Treaty between the two countries which was to deliver water to South Africa and generate electricity for Lesotho.
If the second phase of the project goes ahead without the hydropower station it would have violated the Treaty.
A project without the hydropower component robs Lesotho of a chance to generate its own power.
All this is because the previous government hurried to sign the second phase agreement without a through due diligence.
It would seem that from the onset the plan to build a power station at kobong was a farce.
The reasons for this are clear.
The agreement says the construction of the power station is subject to an agreement on the outcome of the feasibility study.
That in itself meant that there was never a concrete commitment to have a power station in the project.
Even if the feasibility study had said it is both technically and economically viable to have a power station at Kobong, South Africa could still have found ways to wriggle out.
It is also worth noting that after the agreement was signed no one bothered to get Eskom to commit to buying the power generated.
It is inconceivable that such an omission was not deliberate because it was always clear that the Kobong project was going to produce far more power electricity Lesotho needed.
The station was going to produce 1000 megawatts in a country which needs only 140 megawatts.
Surely someone must have realised that the extra power needed buyers.
It is precisely because there is no buyer for the extra power that the project has collapsed.
There are indications that Eskom which was envisaged as the main customer was never informed of the project from the start.
There is also a technical reason why the Kobong project could have been a farce.
The station was going to produce Peaking power at a time when Lesotho needs Base Load power.
Peaking power is used during times when there is a high demand for electricity like in the morning, evening and the winter season.
Base load power on the other hand is constant 24 hours of power supply for seven days.
Engineers will tell you that what Lesotho needs at the moment is Base load power.
It is sad that because of the rushed decision of some bureaucrats Lesotho is losing an opportunity to generate its own power and export some.
The collapse of the power project means that Lesotho will continue to rely on South Africa for electricity.
We are already feeling the effects of that dependence on South Africa.
We are buying electricity more expensive that we produce it at Muela Hydropower station.
These power imports have been a major excuse used by the Lesotho Electricity Company to hike power tariffs every year.
Unless and until we can produce our own power we will forever pay more than we should.
With the Kobong project now dead we must brace for more power tariff hikes.

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