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Eskom Says South Africa Power Supply Tight as Plants Shut

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said South Africa’s power system was “exceptionally tight” as unplanned plant shutdowns left the utility with almost no excess generating capacity to supply the continent’s largest economy.

The margin by which available supply would exceed today’s peak demand will be “virtually zero,” Andrew Etzinger, a spokesman for the Johannesburg-based company, said by phone. “We’ll be using existing interruptible load agreements with customers to manage the situation.”

Eskom is spending about 500 billion rand ($49 billion) in a bid to avoid a repeat of blackouts in 2008 that halted factories and mines for five days, including operations of BHP Billiton Ltd. and Anglo American Plc. The utility is building the world’s third- and fourth-largest coal-fired power stations and intends to bring them online within the next two years.

Eskom isn’t planning to repeat the emergency measures introduced from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, when it asked all large clients to reduce demand by 10 percent, Etzinger said.

“Our reserves would be made up out of reductions through our demand-response program” that sees some clients cutting back on usage in return for compensation, Etzinger said.

Eskom has said that South Africa’s power system will remain constrained until Nov. 29.

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