THE Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) is yet to receive funds from the government to finance its two-months maintenance operations at the ‘Muela Hydropower Station.
The power station has already been shut down and the authority has stopped both electricity generation for domestic consumers and transmission of water to South Africa.
This was said by the authority’s chief executive officer Tente Tente during a recent parliamentary portfolio committee on natural resources.
The maintenance of the power station is part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project’s (LHWP) assets’ routine inspection and maintenance works which started on 1 October and runs until 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 is estimated to supply 30 percent of Lesotho’s power needs with Mozambique contributing 20 percent of the consumption.
The rest of the power comes from the ‘Muela Hydropower Station, which produces about 72 megawatts (MW).
The LHDA said the duration of the maintenance woks would completely cut off water transfer to South Africa and power generation for Lesotho.
And Mr Tente recently told the parliamentary committee that they have requested for about M40 million from the government for the inspection and maintenance of water tunnels and replacement of old machines but some of the money is yet to be released.
Although he did not reveal how much they are still awaiting from the government, he said they were still in talks with government get the money.
Mr Tente warned electricity consumers to ready for possible power cuts in the event that South Africa, which is currently providing electricity to Lesotho, faces power shortages up to December.
“We are still in talks with the government so that we can get the M40 million for the maintenance,” Mr Tente said.
“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.”
However, Water minister Samonyane Ntsekele yesterday said the Ministry of Finance has approved the proposal for the money requested for the maintenance. He said M20 million of the money will be released “almost immediately” while the balance would be dispensed in batches.
“The LHDA has requested approximately M40 million for the maintenance that is done every 10 years. The Ministry of Finance has approved the money and M20 will be given almost immediately while the rest will be given in batches,” 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 set 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 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 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.