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Who's to help KEPCO this summer?

May 13, 2012


 May 13, 2012
Govt to ask users to conserve to help KEPCO


The government plans to ask households and businesses in the service areas of four electric power companies in western Japan to cut electricity consumption by 5 percent this summer to assist in supplying surplus electricity to Kansai Electric Power Co., according to government sources.

Under the plan, users in the service areas of Chubu Electric Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co., Chugoku Electric Power Co. and Shikoku Electric Power Co., which are thought to have surplus capacity, will be asked to cut their power consumption. The surplus power from these utilities will be provided to KEPCO's service area, which is expected to suffer serious power shortages this summer if nuclear power reactors are not reactivated.

By setting the voluntary target, the government hopes to avoid compulsory energy-saving measures, such as an order to limit power consumption in KEPCO's service area.

The government plans to hold a meeting of the Energy and Environment Council, headed by Motohisa Furukawa, state minister for national policy, as early as this week to make an official decision, the sources said.

It is relatively easy for electric utilities in western Japan to supply electricity to each other as they operate on the same current. The electrical current in western Japan is different than the current in eastern Japan.

The government will ask users in KEPCO's service area to cut power consumption by 15 percent to 20 percent from the levels in 2010, when the nation experienced an extremely hot summer.

As areas covered by Kyushu Electric Power Co. are also predicted to experience shortages, the government also plans to ask those users to cut consumption by about 12 percent.

Meanwhile, the government will ask users in areas served by Hokkaido Electric Power Co. to cut power consumption by 7 percent to 8 percent.

However, it does not plan to set any numerical targets for Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which are expected to have surplus power.

The government's expert panel tasked with verifying electricity supply and demand compiled a report on the outlook for this summer on Saturday.

The committee predicted a 14.9 percent supply shortage in KEPCO's service areas, which were heavily dependent on nuclear power, if the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant are not reactivated, even if large-lot users are asked to reduce consumption at peak hours based on their contracts with the utility.

If the government issues compulsory orders to limit electricity consumption in the Kansai region as it did last summer for service areas of TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power, it is expected to deal a serious blow to the region's economy and people's livelihoods.

Though the government aims to overcome the problem with voluntary power-saving efforts by users, it has decided to prepare a backup plan to compensate for uncertainties about the voluntary efforts. By asking users in the four utilities in western Japan to take power-saving steps, the government hopes to increase the amount of surplus power to be supplied to KEPCO to prevent sudden blackouts.

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