Hokkaido hit with 7% power-cut winter goal

Kyodo

The government said Friday it will ask households and companies in Hokkaido to cut electricity use by more than 7 percent from fiscal 2010 levels as part of efforts to ride out the winter without nuclear power.

Specific power-saving targets will not be set for any other parts of the country because regional utilities are expected to secure enough electricity to meet demand, although these areas will still be asked to make voluntarily efforts to limit energy use, the government said.

This will be the first winter since the nuclear crisis erupted in March last year that Hokkaido Electric Power Co. will have none of its reactors online.

In the prefecture, where temperatures regularly dip to minus 20 and even minus 30 degrees, residents will be asked to achieve the 7 percent energy-savings target from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays from Dec. 10 through March 8. But between Dec. 10 and 28, as well as March 4-8, they will be asked to limit their electricity use between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Lifeline utilities such as hospitals and railways are totally exempt from the requirement, while for industries including farming and tourism, the numerical goal will only take effect when a power crunch is feared, the government said.

In the event of huge disruptions to supply in Hokkaido, the government will also ask large-lot users with contracts of 500 kw or more to sign up to a program under which they would pledge to temporarily suspend production operations or drastically curb demand.

In areas other than Hokkaido, voluntary power-saving efforts will be requested on weekdays between Dec. 3 and March 29.

“We must avoid rolling blackouts in Hokkaido because even if the measure is planned in advance, the life-threatening risks could be larger in the prefecture,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano told a new conference.

METI hopes to cut power consumption by at least 330,000 kw through the measure, according to its officials.

The decisions were reached amid bleak prospects of any of Hokkaido’s nuclear reactors resuming operations soon due to lingering concerns about the safety of atomic energy in view of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Japan has 50 nuclear reactors nationwide, but only two, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. in Fukui Prefecture, are currently online.

Of the country’s 10 regional utilities, Okinawa Electric Power Co. is not subject to power-saving efforts because it does not operate any nuclear reactors.