Key to Botswana maintaining its successful development path is the energy sector. Botswana's energy demand was about 3660 GWh in 2008 (peak load of 500 MW), which is projected to grow at about 6 percent per annum reaching 5300 GWh by 2017 (peak load of 850 MW) and 6890 GWh by 2026 (peak load of 1130 MW).
The mining sector accounts for about 50 percent of the demand, the commercial sector about 20 percent, and the residential sector about 25 percent.
Between 2004 and 2007, rural access to electricity doubled to 44 percent, though short of the 60 percent target under the National Development Plan.
The Government's "Vision-2016" aims at 100 percent rural access to support the broader development goals of access to education and health, as well as employment opportunities, to the rural and the disadvantaged population.
The deepening energy crisis across the Southern Africa sub-region is a major impediment to Botswana's economic growth plans, poses a threat to stability, and requires a major concerted effort at the national and regional levels to address the energy challenge. Botswana, like several other countries in the Southern Africa subregion, have until now relied on inexpensive, abundant, and reliable electricity from South Africa.
In 2008, Botswana imported about 2440 GWh (67 percent of its power requirements) from Eskom, the national electric utility of South Africa, while its own small 25-year-old coal power plant (Morupule A, 4 x 33 MW) provided about 22 percent.
The sub-region, including notably South Africa and other neighbours to Botswana, have been experiencing severe shortages of power since the end of 2007 due to high growth and lagging investments in new capacity. South Africa had started load-shedding intermittently since December 2007, a condition that is anticipated to worsen through the medium term until ample new generation capacity is built and commissioned.
Botswana is also experiencing blackouts and is contemplating load-shedding due to its significant dependence on Eskom, which has reduced its supply commitments from current levels to zero in 2013 onwards under a new sales agreement.
There is growing social and political pressure in South Africa to stop exports to other countries. Energy security has emerged as the major national imperative for the government of Botswana.
There is deep concern in the government that the energy situation might lead to a crisis of confidence and political instability, which the country cannot afford.
The government's strategy to respond to the challenge is comprehensive, addressing the short- to medium-term as well as long-term issues in energy. The main elements of the government's strategy are summarised under three themes:
(i) energy security aspects, including energy conservation and efficiency, prudent development of domestic energy resources, attracting private sector, etc.; (ii) natural resources and safeguards aspects to promote responsible use and approach to environmental and social impacts; and (iii) broader development aspects to address national, regional, and global concerns (e.g., climate change).