Kepco area faces 20% power-saving request

JIJI, Kyodo

The government plans to ask residents and businesses served by Kansai Electric Power Co. to voluntarily reduce power usage by as much as 20 percent this summer to prevent blackouts, sources said Monday.

The move follows a threatening report from a government panel on Saturday projecting that Kepco will come up 14.9 percent short of peak demand this summer, leaving much of western Japan at risk of blackouts.

A surplus of at least 3 percent is needed to prevent blackouts.

With all of Japan’s 50 usable commercial nuclear reactors idled by the political fallout from the Fukushima disaster, the government was expected to consider setting nonbinding electricity-saving targets Monday night in a bid to prevent any shortages.

Also expected to be on the agenda is whether to make those curbs mandatory for Kansai Electric’s biggest industrial clients in Osaka and Kyoto, a decision expected to be made by the end of this week, the sources said.

Under the voluntary power-saving measures, residents and companies will be asked to cut power use by 15 percent between July 2 and Sept. 14, provided Kepco can borrow electricity from neighboring Chubu Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co., which have lighter loads, the sources said.

If Kepco can’t get help, the target will be raised to 20 percent.

Similar power-saving measures are being taken in Kyushu, where Kyushu Electric Power Co. faces a projected 2.2 percent shortage.

Power-saving requests in this region will be set at 12 percent from July 2 to Sept. 7 and lowered to 10 percent if the utility can get electricity from other firms.

Shikoku Electric Power Co., however, is in a better situation with a projected surplus of 0.3 percent over demand.

However, since the balance is so tight, the government plans to request a 5 percent or 7 percent reduction in power anyway, depending on whether it can secure promises of help.Elsewhere, a 7 percent target is being eyed for Hokkaido Electric Power Co. between July 23 and Sept. 7 to address an expected 1.9 percent shortage.

The power-saving measures are based on the assumption that no reactors will be restarted before summer, although the government is accelerating efforts to restart two idled reactors at Kepco’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

For areas covered by other utilities, excluding Okinawa Electric Power Co., which does not have a nuclear power plant, the panel expects the power supply and demand balance to be in surplus.

However, even the largest surplus, projected at Chubu Electric Power Co., is just 5.2 percent.

For Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s service areas in northeastern and eastern Japan, the government is trying to avoid setting power-saving targets because the power supply constraints there are not as severe.

The government also does not want to hinder reconstruction efforts in areas hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Since the March 11, 2011, calamity triggered the man-made nuclear crisis at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, no reactors halted for scheduled checks have been restarted.

If Kyushu Electric’s service area can receive electricity from other utilities in western Japan that have the same frequency and available supply capacity, the central government may lower the power-saving target for the area from 12 percent to 10 percent.