LESOTHO can fast-track its energy security aspirations by embracing renewable energy through mini-grid power production, local renewable energy company Mos-Sun Clean Energy Technologies (MOSCET) has said.
Embracing renewable energy will enable the government to share the burden of producing power with independent power producers (IPPs).
With Lesotho's national household electricity connection still below 50 percent for the entire country and less than 10 percent for rural areas, where the majority of the population is concentrated. And even then, Lesotho depends on imported power to meet its demand.
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).
However, MOSCET this week told the Lesotho Times that the country can become energy secure by investing in its abundant renewable energy options such as solar, wind and hydroelectric resources.
"The non-availability of fossil fuels in the country begs the need to exploit indigenous resources and provides an opportunity for renewable energy through independent power production and mini-grid establishment," Ntšebo Sephelane from MOSCET said.
A mini-grid is defined as an off-grid electricity distribution network involving small scale electricity generation.
Ms Sephelane said a 2017 study by the Energy and Meteorology Ministry under the Scaling up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) for low-income countries, showed that Lesotho has the potential to produce 118 MW from solar energy, 2077 MW from wind energy and 36 MW from small scale hydroelectricity. The combined total far exceeds Lesotho's demand.
"Lesotho has an abundance of solar, wind and hydropower resources. The choice of renewable energy technology to be used in different regions will of course, vary depending on the different economic, technical and environmental factors.
"This implies that IPPs and mini-grids could be developed based on solar, wind and small hydropower resources especially in the rural areas where it's not feasible to extend the main electricity grid in the near future."
Many developing African countries have successfully employed mini-grids to increase electricity access in their isolated and rural regions, she said. The high cost of importing electricity to meet the demand is also a burden and solutions must be developed, hence, the need to explore opportunities in mini-grid development and private investment through independent power production.
"The lack of energy policy implementation frameworks is one of the major impediments to usage of clean energy in the country. There is also a need to beef up the regulations to better facilitative the uptake of renewable energy. For instance, the country may come up with carbon tax laws to be levied on those with heavy usage of unclean energy like coal to encourage usage of clean energy."
Lesotho's 2015 to 2025 energy policy provides for the phasing out of electric geysers in government offices and it is imperative to implement the policy and improve uptake renewable energy.
Established in 2010, MOSCET also runs awareness campaigns for rural communities on topics like renewable energy, energy efficiency and the role of energy in rural community development.
The company has been providing the rural population with electricity from small solar PV units ranging from 10 to 5000Wp, with a total of 200 kWp installed thus far. The core product offerings are;
- Solar photovoltaic system for rural communities
- Solar street lighting systems
- Solar Water Heating Systems for households and industry
- Power backup systems (UPS, Generators) for government and businesses.
In partnership with the National University of Lesotho (NUL's) Energy Research Centre and two international organisations, Gram Oorja (India) and Smart Villages (United Kingdom), MOSCET last year obtained funding from Innovate UK. The funding is meant to finance MOSCET's engagement of local communities to design and test tailored technology and business models that deliver energy access while increasing rural productivity and economic growth in those communities.
The intention is to test two alternative versions of the innovative model by installing and monitoring the performance of two mini-grids. The two villages selected for this project are Motete in Butha-Buthe and Linakeng in Thaba Tseka.
Since inception in 2010, MOSCET has also successfully installed over 2500 solar home systems, 1700 solar geyser systems nationwide and over 300 solar street lighting systems for the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) facilities in Mantšonyane and at Hilton Road and Orpen Road for Avani Hotels.