Hokkaido asked to use 6% less electricity this winter

Kyodo

The government said Friday it wants households and companies in Hokkaido to cut electricity usage by more than 6 percent from the fiscal 2010 level to ride out another winter without nuclear power.

It is the first time since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis started that all reactors nationwide will be idle as winter sets in, but other parts of the country are expected to secure enough power to meet demand without setting such numerical targets.

In Hokkaido, people will be asked to achieve the 6 percent power-saving goal from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays between Dec. 9 and March 7, when demand for electricity is expected to peak.

The yearend holiday period will be excluded.

For industries such as farming and tourism, the numerical goal will become a requirement only when a power crunch is feared, while lifeline utilities such as hospitals and railways are totally exempted from the requirement, the government said.

According to a government estimate, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. is expected to secure 7.2 percent more capacity than anticipated demand in February, higher than the minimum required level of 3 percent to maintain a stable supply.

But the government will set the power-saving target to deal with possible emergency situations in the region as only a limited amount of power can be delivered from Honshu.

Voluntary power-saving efforts will also be requested on weekdays between Dec. 2 and March 31 across the country, except for areas supplied by Okinawa Electric Power Co., which owns no nuclear plants.

All 50 of the nation’s viable commercial reactors are now offline, after the only two operating shut down for regular checks in September.

Applications have been submitted for safety checks to be carried out on 14 reactors, including three at Hokkaido Electric’s Tomari plant, with an eye toward restarting the units, assuming they pass new safety requirements introduced in July.

But none is likely to be restarted by the end of this year because the review procedure is expected to take time.

Hokkaido Electric owns only one nuclear plant, and all of its reactors were offline last winter, leading the government to ask for a 7 percent reduction in power usage at the time.