US$52.9m project to power rural communities

US$52.9m project to power rural communities

MASERU – THOUSANDS of Basotho living in rural and peri-urban areas will soon have better access to reliable and affordable electricity, thanks to a massive US$52.9 million (M781.7 million) fund.

In a press statement issued by the World Bank last Thursday in Washington, about M590 million is for the initial funding from the International Development Association (IDA) and the additional amount of about M192 million comes from Scaling Up Renewable Energy Programme (SREP).
The electrification programme will run under the Lesotho Renewable Energy and Energy Access Project which seeks to expand access to electricity to diverse consumers with varied needs.

The World Bank said the project is largely targeted at people living in remote areas.
These include households, rural communities on the outskirts of urban areas, small and medium enterprises and economic centres that are on or off the grid.

The statement further said the project will provide technical assistance to build capacity of both public and private sectors.
This is to ensure sustainable provision of electricity in Lesotho, the statement said.

It said the project will give an impetus to Lesotho in its achievements of Sustainable Development Goal especially Goal 7 which is about affordable and clean energy.
The World Bank Country Director for Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, Namibia and South Africa Marie-Francoise Marie-Nelly said the World Bank will assist the government of Lesotho towards achieving its goal of providing universal access and affordable energy in a sustainable manner.

And that will be done while helping to improve lives of Basotho particularly in the hard-to-reach rural areas and peri-urban areas.
“This is in line with the Lesotho National Strategic Development Plan and the World Bank Group twin goals of reducing extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity,” Marie-Nelly said.

The World Bank said the project will create the conditions for more effective service delivery in remote areas.
These will also contribute to setting the platform for economic activity that will foster job creation for the youths.

This will occur through the participation of the private sector in the delivery of on and off the grid energy, the statement said.
It said this will also support upgrading of the Lesotho Electricity Corporation (LEC)’s hydro-based mini-grid in the remote village of Semonkong.
It will also provide additional connections to both household and commercial customers, as well as metering solutions for new and existing customers.
“It will also support grid extensions to commercial and industrial consumers located in the economic zones of Lesotho.’’

The World Bank further said the project will also facilitate the electrification of areas where supply through mini-grids would be the least-cost option.
In particular, the project will strengthen the legal and regulatory framework for the deployment of mini-grids.
It will also help finance the construction of mini-grid infrastructure to provide electricity services to new users in up to 40 communities.

The NUL Energy Renewable Centre page explained that this project was established owing to the growing imbalance between demand and supply of electricity in the region.
This was coupled with challenges of climate change, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and other regional policies.

The Lesotho Energy Situation page explained that most of the electricity produced in Lesotho is based on hydro sources.
However, the country requires energy imports from neighbouring countries to meet its demand.
It said Lesotho produces about 72 MW from hydropower at the Muela hydropower station.

It has about 150 MW peak power and imports more than 70 MW mainly from Mozambique which is 29 percent of peak demand and 20 percent of its peak demand from South Africa.
Lesotho also relies heavily on biomass fuels to meet its major rural population basic needs of cooking and heating space.

The country does not have any proven fossil fuel sources, hence it does not produce any crude oil, and consequently there is a huge dependency on imported fossil fuels.

Refiloe Mpobole


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