Tohoku Electric Power Co. said Tuesday that it will implement electricity rationing on Wednesday to deal with power shortages, just a day after Tokyo Electric Power Co. took the same measure in areas near the capital.
With rationing set to continue through the end of April in eastern Japan, and even longer in the northeast, concerns are growing over the impact on the economy and everyday lives through the suspension of factory operations and reduced train services.
While Tepco’s plan is to conduct area-by-area power rationing between 6:20 a.m. and 10 p.m. in five different zones, supply and demand will determine whether rationing is actually implemented.
Tohoku Electric officials said Tuesday that power rationing in its service areas will be implemented for at least three days starting Wednesday, but quake-hit areas in the process of recovery, such as parts of Aomori Prefecture, as well as Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, will be excluded.
An official said the measure may continue for several months because quake-hit thermal plants are likely to take a long time to recover from the damage.
Under Tohoku Electric’s plan, power outages will be in effect for up to six hours a day in parts of Akita, Aomori, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures.
Rationing lasted only for up to 90 minutes in one of Tepco’s five zones starting at 5 p.m. Monday thanks to regionwide energy saving efforts, but the suspension of electricity started at around 7 a.m. Tuesday in Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures on expectations that demand would rebound.
Tepco has been monitoring the situation at the last minute before power to a different zone is cut.
According to Tepco, 1.4 million buildings and households in Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba, Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures were to be affected by outages between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m Tuesday.
Tepco, in consultation with rail operators, has decided to transmit enough power to ensure stable train services, even in areas subject to outages, after commuters in the Tokyo metropolitan area were thrown into confusion Monday due to a sharp reduction in service.
Tepco has decided to exempt quake-hit Ibaraki Prefecture and parts of Chiba Prefecture from power rationing, according to prefectural officials, after some evacuees on Monday expressed anger over the suspension of electricity in areas where evacuation centers are located.
The steps are being taken after the megaquake crippled two of the power firm’s key nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture.
The planned outages through April are expected to affect many of the 45 million people in Tepco’s service area covering Tokyo, Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Saitama, Tochigi, Yamanashi and part of Shizuoka prefectures.
The area has been divided into five groups, each of which could experience electricity outages of between three and six hours per day on a rotating basis. The central Tokyo area, however, is being excluded.