We Light the Na­tion

Africa Outlook - - Contents - Writer: Phoebe Calver | Pro­ject Man­ager: Dono­van Smith

Set­ting the bench­mark in elec­tric­ity ex­cel­lence

The Le­sotho Elec­tric­ity Com­pany (LEC) is a 100 per­cent govern­men­towned en­tity, es­tab­lished in 1969 to sup­ply en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly elec­tric­ity to the peo­ple of Le­sotho.

Prior to LEC com­ing to fruition, elec­tric­ity pro­vi­sion in the coun­try was un­der the con­trol of the Gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho. The afore­men­tioned ser­vice was pro­vided by a small coal­fire gen­er­at­ing plant, used to sup­ply a lim­ited num­ber of do­mes­tic cus­tomers lo­cated within the Maseru West and Old Europa ar­eas.

Af­ter a mon­i­tored in­crease in de­mand for elec­tric­ity was noted, both the Gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho and Eskom of South Africa en­tered into an agree­ment in which both par­ties would work to­gether to sup­ply Le­sotho with qual­ity elec­tric­ity.

“In Fe­bru­ary, 2005 af­ter many years of suc­cess in the in­dus­try, we en­tered into a power pur­chase agree­ment with Elec­t­ri­ci­dade de Mo­cam­bique,” ex­plains the Com­pany on its web­site. “Since this point we have bought our elec­tric­ity from Muela Hy­dropower sta­tion, as well as pur­chas­ing elec­tric­ity from Eskom through a 22kv line from Matatiele as Qacha’s Nek is the only dis­trict not con­nected to the na­tional grid at present.”

In the present day, LEC re­mains the sole sup­plier of elec­tric­ity op­er­at­ing within Le­sotho, as well as hold­ing the ti­tle of one of the first paras­tatals in the coun­try.

“Our Com­pany op­er­ates un­der the obli­ga­tion to sup­ply power to all cus­tomers within our ser­vice ter­ri­tory,” con­tin­ues the Com­pany. “Over the years we have come up with a se­ries of strin­gent val­ues to achieve ex­cel­lence for our cus­tomers, in­clud­ing safety and qual­ity con­scious­ness, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance, zero tol­er­ance to cor­rup­tion, re­spon­sive­ness to em­ployee needs, a team­work-cen­tred ap­proach, and re­main­ing adap­tive to change.”

Fa­cil­i­tat­ing con­nec­tions

The Com­pany has worked closely with the Gov­ern­ment on its ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion roll-out pro­gramme over the past few years, and it sub­se­quently has fa­cil­i­tated the con­nec­tions re­quired to reach new cus­tomers on the elec­tric­ity grid.

“We are the sole cus­to­dian of the elec­tric­ity grid in Le­sotho and there­fore have the man­date in place to sus­tain­ably man­age the grid and its as­so­ci­ated as­sets,” adds the Com­pany. “We per­form all the re­quired func­tions in or­der to pro­vide the most re­li­able, sus­tain­able, af­ford­able and qual­ity sup­ply of elec­tric­ity to our cus­tomers.”

At present there are six sep­a­rate busi­ness cat­e­gories and two do­mes­tic among LEC’s vary­ing cus­tomers, with a to­tal num­ber of peo­ple served at 192,589 and ris­ing.

“We carry out the sale of our elec­tric­ity through both prepaid and post-paid me­ters, used to gen­er­ate our rev­enue,” con­tin­ues the Com­pany.

“The pro­cesses we carry out for each cus­tomer cat­e­gory in­clude vend­ing and billing re­spec­tively.”

The vend­ing process is car­ried out over a se­lec­tion of plat­forms, util­is­ing the dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies avail­able to the Com­pany. How­ever, the billing as­pect is achieved through man­ual in­voic­ing for larger cus­tomers on a post-paid ar­range­ment ba­sis.

Trans­mis­sion net­work

When it comes to en­sur­ing the pro­vi­sion of safe and re­li­able elec­tric­ity to the peo­ple and busi­nesses of Le­sotho, the role of trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion is in­valu­able.

“The trans­mis­sion net­work is there to evac­u­ate power from the gen­er­a­tion sources avail­able, in­clud­ing Muela Hy­dropower, Eskom and EDM to the LEC load cen­tres,” the Com­pany de­scribes. “The sup­plies from Muela, Eskom and EDM are trans­mit­ted through the 132kV lines to Ma­put­soe Sub­sta­tion and Mabote Sub­sta­tion re­spec­tively.

We are the sole cus­to­dian of the elec­tric­ity grid in Le­sotho and there­fore have the man­date in place to sus­tain­ably man­age the grid and its as­so­ci­ated as­sets

“The var­i­ous trans­mis­sion lines that we work with have vary­ing volt­age lev­els of 132kV, 88kV, 66kV and 33k, at that point the trans­mis­sion volt­ages are moved onto dis­tri­bu­tion volt­ages in one of the 45 sub­sta­tions we have in our port­fo­lio.”

The var­i­ous sub­sta­tions are piv­otal in the chain of sup­ply of elec­tric­ity across the coun­try, with each sep­a­rate dis­tri­bu­tion net­work de­liv­er­ing power to the Com­pany’s val­ued cus­tomers.

The Com­pany adds: “Our dis­tri­bu­tion net­works range from the volt­age of 11kV to 220V and 380V, and pro­vide the core to the busi­ness. With­out them we would not func­tion.”

In or­der to main­tain the func­tion­al­ity of both the trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion net­works, the Com­pany per­forms both planned and un­planned net­work main­te­nance in or­der to keep as­sets in the best work­ing or­der.

“Our planned main­te­nance is car­ried out upon the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of is­sues through in­spec­tion, oil anal­y­sis, in­frared scan­ning and a va­ri­ety of other tests that are sub­se­quently rec­ti­fied be­fore a fail­ure in the sys­tem oc­curs,” con­tin­ues the Com­pany. “The ma­jor­ity of crit­i­cal main­te­nance that we are faced with will be the re­fur­bish­ment of di­lap­i­dated switchgear, worn out pole struc­tures and the up­grade of con­duc­tors.

“Our un­planned main­te­nance is cur­rently dom­i­nat­ing the planned main­te­nance, and will of­ten ap­pear in the form of an emer­gency power out­age. This can be caused by many fac­tors such as an age­ing net­work, harsh weather con­di­tions and the van­dal­ism of a net­work - which un­for­tu­nately has in­creased over time.”

Along­side test­ing, the other de­part­men­tal roles within the Com­pany in­clude the test­ing of in­stal­la­tions, sur­vey­ing, gen­er­at­ing quo­ta­tions and im­ple­ment­ing ser­vice con­nec­tions. All of these ac­tiv­i­ties re­late di­rectly to the suc­cess of cus­tomer con­nec­tions and the con­stant sup­ply of their elec­tric­ity, en­sur­ing that the Com­pany is able to com­ply with its ser­vice man­i­festo.

Con­tin­ued ser­vice

In re­cent years it has been par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to the Com­pany to both re­duce the de­pen­dence on diesel gen­er­a­tors and sup­ply ru­ral ar­eas with elec­tric­ity, espe­cially when they are lo­cated in iso­lated re­gions away from the Na­tional Grid. The in­tro­duc­tion of mini hy­dropower plants has been in­stru­men­tal in achiev­ing this, al­though it does tech­ni­cally fall out­side of the gen­eral scope of LEC’s orig­i­nal busi­ness.

The Com­pany ex­plains: “We have be­gun our work on this on a very small scale in Se­monkong and Mantsonyane in or­der to mon­i­tor the suc­cess and re­quire­ments placed upon the hy­dropower sta­tions.”

When this pro­ject was in its in­tro­duc­tory stages, LEC was also run­ning two sta­tions named Tsoe­like and Tloko­eng. How­ever, both of these sta­tions had to be de­com­mis­sioned due to op­er­a­tional is­sues.

The Com­pany con­cludes: “We are look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing our work on these projects in the hope of con­tin­ued ser­vice for those liv­ing in both ru­ral and ur­ban Le­sotho for many years to come.”

We are look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing our work on these projects in the hope of con­tin­ued ser­vice for those liv­ing in both ru­ral and ur­ban Le­sotho for many years to come

En­sur­ing the pro­vi­sion of safe and re­li­able elec­tric­ity

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