MASERU – The government of Lesotho in partnership with the United States of America has signed a grant worth more than M8.6 million (600, 000 USD) to support the development of a 20 megawatts (MW) of a new renewable energy project to be constructed in Mafeteng soon.
The grant that has been availed by the United States of America government through the US Trade Development Agency (USTDA) will see OnePower, an implanting Lesotho company moving a step closer to constructing a solar power facility which is expected to be one of the major contributors to the Lesotho power grid once fully operational.
The 20MW project, which is 100 times larger than the solar plant at Moshoeshoe 1 International Airport, will cut across the three communities of Haraliemere, Haramarothole as well as Halempetje.
A total of 36 land owners from these communities will see 65 hectares of their land being used and become the solar farm that will generate 20 megawatts (MW) of power.
According to OnePower Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Matthew Orosz, the 20 MW will be sold to LEC through a 25-year power purchase agreement.
“This will lower the cost of electricity that Lesotho is importing by 10 percent. The project will also create more than 200 jobs during the construction and further dozens of jobs in permanent and long-term operations.
“It is also helping Lesotho achieve its climate goals because this is clean, renewable green energy proving that Lesotho is open to private investment which has many other benefial effects throughout the economy,” Orosz said during the signing of the grant on yesterday.
Currently Lesotho has a peak demand of 165 MW of electricity, but only generates 72MW of reliable power at ‘Muela in Botha-Bothe district. This means the country imports over 90MW of electricity from other countries to supplement the limited power generation.
On her part, the United States Ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales, hailed the project, emphasising that electricity is both the lifeblood of economic development and an essential element for improving the quality of live.
She revealed it is fully within Lesotho’s capacity to become a net exporter of energy in the future based on its competitive advantage.
“Its competitive advantage can be used not only to enhance the quality of life of Basotho people but also to make solar power Lesotho’s most economically important natural resource after water,” Gonzales stated.
In her further gratitude to the project, the Ambassador noted that in Lesotho and across Sub-Saharan Africa, there is need to generate new power to improve access to existing power and to also diversify the energy generation mix.
The sentiments were echoed by the acting Minister of Energy and Meteorology Mokoto Hloaele who said the grant will go a long way towards benefiting the economy of Lesotho through job creation.
With this financial support, Hloaele said the United States is further contributing positively to the development of the energy sector in Lesotho.
“The importance of this grant cannot be over-emphasised. It is going to help Lesotho to close the deficit of power generation and therefore reduce the amount of electricity imported from South Africa and Mozambique to meet our electricity demand,” Hloaele stated in his remarks.
The minister highlighted further that with the increasing electrification of villages in Lesotho, and the envisaged mushrooming of big industrial projects resulting from the recent economic labs in the country, electricity demand is expected to increase significantly in the near future resulting in massive increase of imported electricity and the erosion of more money to other countries to pay for the importation.
However, with this solar power plant by OnePower supported by the US, the minister believes it is going to help Lesotho to reduce the electricity deficit and save limited funds for other local development projects.
It is also going to give us more flexibility to control our electricity prices better in future.
The OnePower project and its partnership through USTDA support represents the notion that USTDA supports the development of well-planned, sustainable infrastructure projects in areas that host countries deem priorities.
The support and tendering of the project was competitively and openly done in Lesotho.