Ha-Makebe Community Solar Mini-Grid in Lesotho
The Ha-Makebe community solar mini-grid was initially installed in October 2018 by OnePower Lesotho, with financing support from the Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP). The project is located on the outskirts of the Berea district, north-east of the capital, Maseru. Ha-Makebe is the first privately-owned Independent Power Producer (IPP) in Lesotho, and supplies electricity to 187 households and business in Ha-Makebe. The project is a solar PV mini-grid, with battery storage and a backup diesel generator to ensure 24-hour electricity supply. The installed solar capacity of the mini-grid is 50kW. Users of the mini-grid pay a tariff of M5.00/kWh using a mobile money payments system. This is comparatively higher than the per-kWh price charged by the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC), which is around M3.00/kWh, however the consistency of the power supply and the participatory nature of the project means this price is acceptable to members of the community at Ha-Makebe.
Ha-Makebe solar mini-grid plant. Photo: M. Kali., 2022.
The project was designed from the ground-up with community participation in mind. Initial consultations took the form of public gatherings with the announcement of the local chief. Community members discussed their needs with the installers during their meetings and how they could be addressed. The community offered the land to both OnePower for the installation of the mini-grid and the Lesotho Vodacom Company for the installation of mobile network towers freely, improving the financial sustainability of the project for OnePower and enabling energy access for the community.
The success of the pilot project at Ha-Makebe has enabled OnePower to install a further ten solar mini-grids in rural areas of the country. Residents in the community benefit from lighting services to their homes, as well as electric cooking and heating services. In addition, the company’s installation of the mini-grid enabled the creation of both skilled and unskilled jobs in the community, and OnePower has trained technicians and engineers for the mini-grid within the local community. At the request of the community, OnePower also installed Apollo streetlighting points in the community, as part of their corporate social responsibility measures. Performance of the mini-grid overall has been very satisfactory for the community, with the one issue raised being the need for greater user information regarding purchased electricity units and remaining units for use.