Winter power cuts for Kansai, Kyushu

Kyodo

The government decided Tuesday to ask customers of Kansai Electric Power Co. to cut power usage by more than 10 percent and customers of Kyushu Electric Power Co. to reduce their electricity consumption by 5 percent this winter.

For the December-March period, the government said the supply-demand situation will “not be as serious as this summer” nationwide.

But due to the idling of nuclear reactors, the power supply capacity of Kansai Electric could be as much as 9.5 percent below peak demand and Kyushu Electric up to 2.2 percent short.

Tohoku Electric Power Co. meanwhile may face a maximum 3.4 percent shortage, but the government decided not to set numerical cutback targets for its service area, as the northeast was ravaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and further damaged by the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

But other areas in the country will be asked to save power.

“The government won’t impose a binding restriction on power use, but I ask for cooperation to save power at a level that would not interfere with public life and economic activities,” Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano said Tuesday.

This past summer the government imposed a legally binding 15 percent power-saving goal on large-lot power users in the service areas of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric. But it said it has decided not to legally enforce power-saving efforts in the same areas this winter to “minimize the impact on the economy.”

The new targets will apply on weekdays between Dec. 19 and March 23 in Kansai Electric’s service area, which covers the nation’s second-largest business hub, Osaka, and from Dec. 19 to Feb. 3 in the Kyushu Electric service area.

The latest announcement again underscores the tough energy situation as the public remains concerned about the safety of nuclear power, which accounted for 30 percent of all electricity generated in Japan before the crisis erupted in March.

Of the 54 commercial nuclear reactors, the number in operation is expected to fall to just six by the end of the year. Currently only 10 are operating.

As for next summer, the government forecast that the country’s power supply capacity will be about 9.2 percent short of peak demand, equivalent to about 16.56 million kw, if demand is the same as summer 2010 and if no reactors resume operating.

Assuming demand is the same as this summer, during which a legally binding power saving was applied and industrial production was low, the government said the Kansai, Kyushu, Hokkaido and Shikoku areas could face energy shortages.