Government doesn’t plan to issue mandatory power-saving order to western Japan

Kyodo

The government will not issue binding electricity-saving orders for areas served by Kansai Electric Power Co., whose capacity to meet peak demand this summer is precarious now that the nation’s nuclear plants are all shut down, because other utilities will probably be able to provide Kepco with extra power, sources said Thursday.

Still, to prevent blackouts, the government at a ministerial meeting Friday morning will ask households and businesses served by seven utilities, including Kepco, to voluntarily curb power use this summer by setting numerical reduction targets, the sources said.

The move comes as all of the nation’s 50 usable commercial nuclear reactors are now shut down amid heightened public safety fears due to the triple-meltdown crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant. Before the crisis, which prompted the government to order all reactors to pass disaster-resistance stress tests, atomic power accounted for some 30 percent of the nation’s electricity.

In Kansai Electric’s service area, including Osaka, the government plans to ask customers to voluntarily cut usage by 15 percent from levels in 2010, when an extremely hot summer hit.

For areas served by Kyushu Electric Power Co., the government will likely set a 10 percent reduction target, and 7 percent for areas served by Hokkaido Electric Power Co. and Shikoku Electric Power Co.

The reductions will be sought for between July 23 and Sept. 14 in Hokkaido Electric’s service area, and from July 2 to Sept. 7 in the areas served by the other six utilities.

In all seven service areas, the targeted reductions will be sought from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, excluding the Aug. 13-15 Bon holiday period. No restrictions on weekend power usage will be requested.

To deal with unexpected situations, including breakdowns at thermal power plants, the government will prepare for possible rolling blackouts in the service areas of four utilities — Kepco, Kyushu Electric, Hokkaido Electric and Shikoku Electric.

If implemented, blackouts will last for about two hours and occur only once a day in any given area.

Under the government plan, a 5 percent nonbinding power-saving target is likely to be issued for areas covered by Chubu Electric Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co. and Chugoku Electric Power Co., where the electricity supply and demand situation is not so severe.

The government will also seek power-saving efforts by customers of Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Tepco, but will not set numerical targets as the areas have relatively stable supplies thanks to enhanced thermal power generation.