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Eskom implemented emergency stage one load-shedding on Sunday for the first time in more than two years as an unexpectedly high number of plant outages made it necessary to drop load to stabilise the system. The utility supplies more than 95% of SA’s electricity. This is the first time since 2016 that load-shedding has been necessary, with the exception of a few days during which plants were sabotaged in industrial action earlier in 2018. Load-shedding takes place when the reserve capacity is so diminished that the system is at risk of tripping. The reason lies in Eskom’s deteriorating plant capacity — measured by the energy availability factor — due to unplanned breakdowns. The energy availability factor is a measure of how much of Eskom’s plant at any one time is available to dispatch electricity. Eskom’s target is for 80% plant availability. But in recent months, the energy availability factor has been on a rapid decline, reaching 66% on Eskom’s last weekly available figures. The...

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