Power-saving looms again for this summer

JIJI

Nationwide power-saving efforts will continue to be necessary this summer, according to the electricity supply-demand balance estimated by a government panel.

The panel noted in a meeting Monday that the electricity supply surplus is expected to stand at 0.1 percent, far short of the 3 percent needed for stable electricity supply, even taking into consideration contracts that force power users to cut their usage when supply is tight, sources said.

Compared with the supply-demand projections of power companies, the panel chaired by Katsuyuki Ishida, senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office, estimated reductions in demand of 150,000 kw through power-saving efforts and 700,000 kw through such contracts. It also sees pumped-storage hydropower generation adding 70,000 kw to the supply levels estimated by power firms.

As a result, it projects the nationwide electricity supply-demand balance rising 0.5 percentage point from a shortage of 0.4 percent estimated by power firms.

Kansai Electric Power Co. is seen facing a shortage of 14.9 percent, compared with 16.3 percent that it previously estimated. Kyushu Electric Power Co. is expected to see a shortage of 2.2 percent, against 3.7 percent, and the shortage is also seen to drop, to 1.9 percent from 3.1 percent, at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.

The six power firms in western Japan are projected to suffer an overall shortage of 2.8 percent, against 3.6 percent in the forecasts by the power companies.

At the meeting, however, some members said the panel’s estimates are highly uncertain and should only be used for reference, according to the sources.

The panel is slated to finalize its power supply and demand estimates at a meeting Thursday.

Following the panel’s summary, the government is scheduled to set up an energy and environment meeting of relevant ministers. They will work to compile energy-saving plans for the coming summer.

‘Severe’ situation: Edano

Kyodo

Industry minister Yukio Edano said Tuesday he wants to avoid the government issuing an order to restrict electricity usage this summer, but noted the nation’s current situation, now without nuclear power, is “quite severe.”

His comments came a day after the government presented an estimate that the areas covered by Kansai Electric Power Co., which relied particularly heavily on nuclear power before the Fukushima nuclear crisis, will face a power shortage of 14.9 percent during peak hours in August.

Asked if he still thinks the government can avoid implementing a mandatory power-saving drive, Edano said at a press conference, “I have a strong desire to avoid taking compulsory steps . . . but I honestly think the situation is quite severe.”

Last summer, the government imposed the first electricity-saving order in 37 years for large-lot users in the service areas of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. to battle power supply constraints amid the crisis at Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Edano said the government will explore ways to avoid taking such compulsory steps this summer until the last minute.

Japan’s last operating commercial nuclear reactor went offline Saturday for mandatory routine maintenance, leaving the nation without atomic-generated electricity for the first time in 42 years in light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which started 14 months ago.

As for who should take responsibility should mandatory restrictions on electricity use and rolling blackouts be implemented, Edano said that in a broad sense, the Fukushima crisis that made people lose trust in nuclear power is behind such concerns.

“I think that is a responsibility that Japan’s entire nuclear power policy over the past decades should bear,” he said, apparently including the policy implemented before the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s ascent to power in 2009.