2 Juillet 2012
July 2, 2012
Government-imposed electricity-saving targets took effect Monday to cope with power constraints caused by the loss of nearly all nuclear power capacity following the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011.
Although the government refrained from issuing a compulsory electricity-saving order as it did in some areas last summer, this is the second summer a power-conservation request has been made.
All parts of the country except Okinawa, whose power is nonnuclear, have been asked to conserve electricity through Sept. 28 as much as possible.
Households and businesses served by six utilities in wide areas have been asked to voluntarily cut power use by 5 to 15 percent through Sept. 7 to cope with the usual rise in air conditioning use in the summer.
The highest target — 15 percent — was imposed on the area served by Kansai Electric Power Co., which includes the major cities of Osaka and Kyoto.
The drive prompted offices and shops to cut back on air conditioning and lighting.
Coca-Cola (Japan) Co. and its bottling companies will rotate the use of refrigeration in their vending machines every two hours. Kyushu Railway Co. plans to reduce the frequency of trains in and around the city of Fukuoka.
If power consumption is deemed likely to surpass 99 percent of utilities' supply capacity in spite of the power-saving drive, the government will implement rolling blackouts in four service areas where supply capacity is deemed especially tight.
Although government officials say the chances of that happening are small, preparations are now under way to cope with unexpected glitches, such as a thermal power plant breakdown.
The four utilities are Kansai Electric, Kyushu Electric Power Co., Hokkaido Electric Power Co. and Shikoku Electric Power Co.
Kepco rebooted a reactor at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture Sunday to help alleviate possible power shortages this summer. It was the first reactor to be switched back on after regular checks since the meltdown of three reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The Oi plant's reactor 4 is also slated for restart later this month, but the rest of the nation's 50 commercial reactors remain idled amid lingering public concern over nuclear safety.
Before the March 2011 meltdown crisis started, the nation relied on nuclear power for nearly 30 percent of its electricity output.
The government has set a target of reducing power consumption by 10 percent from the 2010 level for Kyushu Electric's service area, 7 percent for Shikoku Electric's, and 5 percent for areas covered by Hokuriku Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co. and Chugoku Electric Power Co. 2010 saw record-high summer temperatures.
The power-saving drive will also start in Hokkaido Electric's service area with a 7 percent target on July 23, and end on Sept. 14.
Reduction efforts are being sought from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, excluding the Bon holiday period from Aug. 13 to 15. Only in Hokkaido, the time frame will be shortened to three hours from 5 p.m. from Sept. 10 to 14.
Once the Oi plant's reactor 3 is confirmed to be generating electricity at full capacity, which is expected Sunday at the earliest, the government plans to ease the power-saving targets for the Chubu, Kansai, Hokuriku and Chugoku regions.