The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has announced that it has awarded a feasibility study grant to Lesotho’s independent power producer, OnePower Lesotho.
The company will use the unspecified sum for a feasibility study relating to a long-planned 20 MW solar power project in the country’s Mafeteng district. The study will be conducted by U.S.-based CDM International, which is said to be finalizing the remaining preparatory work needed for the project to attract financing and reach implementation.
In August 2017, the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), which is managed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), agreed to provide NEO I SPV Pty Ltd., a subsidiary of OnePower Lesotho, with a $695,500 grant to finance the preparation of a bankable business case for the project. Later in November of the same year, OnePower Lesotho issued an expression of interest for an environmental and social impact assessment, as well as management services relating to the plant.
Reducing reliance on electricity imports
According to the SEFA, the 20 MW solar park will facilitate Lesotho’s strategic phase-out of costly power imports from Mozambique and the reduction of imported coal-generated power from South Africa. The landlocked country is currently covering most of its energy consumption with the 72 MW Muela hydropower project, which is unable to meet increasing demand.
Lesotho Electricity Company, a local state-owned power utility, issued a tender in February to seek proposals from consultants to carry out a renewable energy grid integration study funded by the African Development Fund. The study is expected to outline different scenarios for renewable generation and the distribution system, while also highlighting technical barriers to the wider adoption of renewable energy.
According to the USTDA, only around 30% of Lesotho’s households have currently access to electricity, with much of it concentrated in urban areas. The government aims to increase this percentage to 40% by 2020.
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