MASERU – The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) has noted that one of the three units (Unit 1) that generate electricity at the ’Muela Hydro-power station failed to restart following a fault that had caused all the three machines to shut down on June 16. LHDA has since been working on restoring this unit but up to now it is still not operating. As a result, the station is currently operating at two thirds of its capacity.
These three electricity generating machines were put into operation 34 years ago at a cost of M1.4 billion. Despite routine maintenance, some of the critical components of these machines are approaching the end of their service life and substantial funds have been required to replace or refurbish them. LHDA Chief Executive, Tente Tente, has said it is critical to get the failed unit back in operation as quickly as possible.
He also said that LHDA is exploring all options including fast-tracking the procurement of a contractor to refurbish the unit, subject to funding availability. “The issue of restoring Unit 1 to normal operation is top priority given that continued failure to bring the station into optimal operation has serious implications for the country.
“Proper maintenance of the station’s equipment in totality is equally important as the consequences of further failures would be dire,” added Tente. LHDA is implementing and managing the two key engineering components of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), namely; the transfer of water to South Africa and power generation in Lesotho on behalf of the government of Lesotho. Social and environmental programmes are also ongoing.
In terms of the LHWP Treaty, Lesotho is responsible for funding the hydro-power component, while South Africa is responsible for the water transfer component. ’Muela Hydro-power station remains the largest and most critical source of electricity supply in Lesotho. It generates 51 percent of the country’s annual electricity requirements at a very low cost. This saves the country hundreds of millions in costs of sourcing electricity from outside the country.