Kansai power shortage a given: panel

Kyodo

Three utilities are likely to face power shortages this summer in their service areas, including in the cities of Osaka, Fukuoka and Sapporo, if all nuclear reactors remain idled and temperatures reach levels seen in 2010, a government panel said Thursday

The Kansai region is projected to see especially tight supply and demand, with peak summertime demand projected to exceed Kansai Electric Power Co.’s capacity by 15.7 percent in August, the panel of experts said in a draft report.

The panel also estimated that Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s service area will experience a 3.7 percent shortfall, while Hokkaido Electric Power Co. will face a 3.1 percent power shortage. It plans to finalize its report Saturday.

The government is expected to compile energy-saving plans as early as next week that would set power-saving targets, mainly for the regions covered by the three utilities, and may even consider issuing an order to restrict businesses’ power use in Kansai.

During the panel’s fifth meeting Thursday, the government presented projections showing that Kansai Electric’s power shortfall would narrow to 0.9 percent if two idled reactors at the utility’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture resume operation, and reiterated its argument that restarting the units is essential.

With all the country’s reactors idled, the combined supply of electricity by nine of the 10 regional utilities is likely to fall short of maximum demand by 0.3 percent.

The panel said further power-saving efforts by the public and the introduction of new processes to improve efficiency, such as hiking electricity rates during peak hours, would be necessary.

Due to public fears over atomic energy sparked by the Fukushima nuclear crisis, no reactors halted for scheduled inspections have gone back online.

Japan’s final operating commercial reactor, at Hokkaido Electric’s Tomari plant, went offline May 5 for mandatory routine maintenance, leaving the nation without any atomic energy for the first time in 42 years.

The government is desperately trying to restart the Oi plant’s reactors 3 and 4 before the annual spike in electricity use this summer, as households crank up their air conditioning systems. But its efforts to win public approval have made little headway, given that the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years has shredded confidence the safety of atomic energy.

Last year, power supply constraints led the government to implement rolling blackouts and issue its first electricity-saving order in eastern Japan in 37 years.