Power use falls; reactors unneeded

July saw 6.3% drop in demand despite heat amid efforts to save

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Sales by 10 major power utilities in July dropped by 6.3 percent due to a decline in demand, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan has revealed.

But while efforts to cut down electricity use by households and the business sector are paying off, some say the numbers prove that last month’s reactivation of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture may have been unnecessary.

“Electricity utilities may be opting to restart their nuclear reactors since they are cheaper than thermal power plants,” Hideyuki Koyama, executive director of Mihama no Kai, which opposes Kepco’s nuclear power use, told The Japan Times.

“The data are solid proof that Japan can supply enough electricity even without any nuclear power generation,” he stressed.

The federation said Monday that overall electricity use in July dropped 6.3 percent compared with the same month last year. Nine out of 10 utilities reported a decline in sales, with the exception being Tohoku Electric Power Co., where recovery from the March 2011 disasters is making progress.

Rolling blackouts are to be implemented if necessary this summer in the Kansai region and Kyushu, but so far none has been needed.

The decline in electricity demand also came even though higher than average temperatures were recorded nationwide last month, according to the Meteorological Agency.

In announcing the restart of the two Oi reactors, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in June warned that it was aimed at supporting the economy and the public’s livelihood. His appeal was validated at least in the Kansai region, where electricity demand would have surpassed supply levels during peak hours had the reactors remained offline.

But pundits say that instead of relying on nuclear power, Kepco could have easily covered any shortage by requesting neighboring electricity utilities, which had an oversupply, to provide backup.

“Reactivation of the reactors was decided considering the cost and profits of the electricity utilities,” Mihama no Kai’s Koyama said. “But under the circumstances, nuclear plants should be shut down for the safety of the public.”