Lesotho signs wind energy deal

Lesotho has signed a $15 billion (11 billion euro) renewable energy deal with a South African company in the country’s largest-ever private investment, officials said on Thursday.

"The project aims to harness the natural resources of wind and water in Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains to produce power that will be used by both Lesotho and South Africa," Johannesburg-based Harrison & White Investments said in a statement.

The Lesotho Highlands Power Project (LHPP) will generate 6,000 megawatts of wind power and 4,000 megawatts of hydro-power — equivalent to nearly one-quarter of South Africa’s total current energy supply.

The scheme will create 25,000 jobs over 15 years, Lesotho’s natural resources minister Monyane Moleleki said. Harrison & White Investments and the government of Lesotho will provide equity finance, while unnamed Chinese firms will provide loans, Harrison & White said.

"The wind farm project comes at a time in our history when our traditional income streams have dried up due largely to the global economic meltdown," Moleleki said at the signing ceremony in the capital Maseru on Wednesday.

The project aims to generate power from the Maluti Mountains’ wind and water resources, mainly for export to South Africa, which completely surrounds the tiny mountainous country.

The first phase of the project is a 150-megawatt wind farm, with construction set to start next year.

The project will be Lesotho’s largest investment since its six billion euro Lesotho Highlands Water Project deal with South Africa undertaken in 1998.

South Africa and Lesotho in August agreed to launch the second phase of that project, with a new dam and a 1,000-megawatt power station expected to cost $993 million.