LESOTHO Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) plans to increase water transmission before and after the maintenance period of the Phase 1 Water Transfer and Delivery Tunnels in order to make up for the expected loss of over M600 million in royalties.
Jan. 26, 2024
4 min read
LHDA unveils plans to make up for water revenue lost
LHDA boss, Tente Tente
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This comes after LHDA last week announced the upcoming planned maintenance of the Phase I Water Transfer and Delivery Tunnels, which will result in the total shutdown of the water delivery system for six months.
During this time, LHDA states that there will be no transfer of water from Katse to ’Muela (Transfer Tunnel, 45km), which will result in no generation of electricity at the ’Muela Hydropower Station (MHP).
Also, there will be no delivery of water from Lesotho to South Africa through the Delivery Tunnel (37 km) (Delivery Tunnel South 15km and Delivery Tunnel North 22km).
The Phase I Water Transfer and Delivery Tunnels will undergo planned maintenance, resulting in a complete shutdown of the water delivery system for six months.
The maintenance will take place from October 1, to March 31, 2025, and the estimated cost of the maintenance is approximately M300 million.
While speaking to this publication earlier this week, LHDA Public Relations Officer Mpho Brown said under normal circumstances, Lesotho earns over M100 million per month through the project from RSA.
However, he said during the six-month period, there would not be any royalties, hence, the LHDA decided to come up with a plan of increasing sent water before and after maintenance to ensure not much royalties are lost due to repairs.
“Because of the mitigation I have explained above, that we will deliver more water before and more water after, the loss in royalty revenue for the year will be minimised,” he said.
Brown further indicated that the two biggest impacts of the outage during maintenance are that there will not be a transfer of water or the generation of hydropower in order to mitigate against the complete loss of royalty revenue during the outage.
“The LHDA will increase the levels of water delivered between now and October, as well as immediately after the outage. With electricity, the same is not possible, and therefore the LHDA has been working with the government and the LEC to keep them informed of this planned maintenance, and they in turn have made and will continue to make the requisite arrangements to ensure continued supply of electricity during that time,” he said.
So, to quantify it, Brown said normally, Lesotho delivers 780 million cubic metres (MCM) of water to SA.
However, between now and October, LHDA plans to increase delivery and send 700 MCM, which is 90% of the total expected water supply for the year.
“So by December, when the year ends, we will have only lost approximately 10% of royalty revenue, which we will make up for with increased delivery of water after the maintenance,” he said.
During the briefing with the media, LHDA’s Chief Executive, Tente Tente, shared that in 2019, during the inspections of the Transfer and Deliver Tunnels, it was established that the painting on all sections of the tunnels that are steel lined was wearing off, and if left for too long unattended, there was a risk that the steel lining would corrode.
Specialists advised that the tunnel could safely be operated for a period of around five years (say, October 2019 to October 2024).
Safe operation of the system significantly beyond the next 5 years could not be guaranteed.
Tente said the LHDA plans to use the opportunity created by the 2024 Tunnel Outage to undertake other routine maintenance on the ’Muela Hydropower Station and other related components.
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This will include, but is not limited to, the replacement of the process’s controllers in MHP Unit 1. The station houses three units that generate hydropower. The 10-year inspection and refurbishment of Units 1 and 3 have recently been completed.
The 10-year inspection and refurbishment of Unit 2 and the process’s controllers is planned for February to May 2024.
“LHDA will undertake extensive maintenance and repair work in the tunnels. This will require a complete shutdown of the station to empty the tunnels of any water and make way for maintenance teams to enter the tunnels and carry out the repair work. It is a sensitive and extensive job that is done with the highest degree of safety considerations and care and thus requires thorough planning, execution, and post-maintenance inspections before water is released back into the tunnels,” he said.
On the other hand, Reentseng Molapo, LHDA’s Divisional Manager for Development and Operations, indicated that the maintenance and repair work is expected to last about four months in total, while preparations, which include emptying the tunnels, will occupy the first month, and final inspections and refilling the tunnels with water will take up the final month, making the total outage period six months.