The role of the mini hydro power plants is to reduce the dependence on diesel generators in the remote areas and to supply rural areas with electricity in isolated networks from the National Grid. Generation of electricity falls outside the scope of the LEC business, hence it is done at a very small scale in Semonkong and Mantšonyane. Initially LEC had four small mini hydro-power stations in the mountainous areas of Semonkong, Mantšonyane, Tlokoeng (Mokhotlong) and Tsoelike (Qacha’s Nek).
The two stations of Tsoelike and Tlokoeng have been decommissioned because of both technical and operational problems. Since about 1996, LEC secured supply for Qacha’s Nek from Eskom network, from Matatiele town in South Africa. Mokhotlong was connected to Letšeng grid in 2003. In 2006, Semonkong was transferred back to the DOE (Department of Energy) as Semonkong was part of the pilot rural electrification projects. The plant was then operated under contract, by Clackson Power Company. The Clackson contract was terminated by April 2007 and DOE gave back Semonkong to LEC, for operations and maintenance.
The following is a summary of the status of each hydro-power station:
• Due to severe drought, peak-lopping(cutting/reducing load during peak hours by synchronising generator to the grid) to the grid was up to August 2015;
• Silt removal from Mantšonyane dam started in October 2015 even though it is not yet complete;
• There is a problem that developed at the station in February 2016 which hinders the station to operate. It is being looked into;
• Access road maintenance by a contractor is in progress.
• Power generation was secured for fourteen hours by diesel generator because of the drought up to December 2015;
• Since January 2016 to date power supply to Semonkong customers was generated by alternate use of both hydro and diesel;
• Access road to the station is in a very poor condition. Quotations for its maintenance have been sought and will be attended to.