Kepco under fire for power threat

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Kansai Electric Power Co. is still drawing fire for asking local governments and businesses to cut power use 15 percent this summer to help it cope with the shutdown of four nuclear reactors for inspections.

The criticism began June 10, when Kepco announced that demand for electricity would probably exceed supply — especially in August — and that a 15 percent cut in power use by governments, businesses and individuals was needed to prevent large blackouts in the region.

Citing a lack of clear evidence for the figure, Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto announced that the prefecture would not cooperate with Kepco. Since then, other Kansai governors have demanded Kepco provide a better explanation for how it arrived at the number, even as others began announcing ways they would attempt to save electricity.

“Kepco needs to provide more information about how it arrived at its decision that a 15 percent cut is necessary. But Kyoto Prefecture will institute energy-saving measures that will reduce electricity consumption by up to 17 percent during the peak August period,” Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada said Tuesday.

To meet this goal, Yamada said, prefectural activities that consume large amounts of electricity- including sewerage and drainage repairs — will be shifted from the afternoon to late at night, and that lunchtime for prefectural employees would be delayed from 1 to 2 p.m., with lights to be extinguished during that time.

Other local governments, including Osaka, are discussing similar measures, even as they seek further explanations from Kepco.

At the moment, Kepco predicts 29.38 million kw will be available this August. This includes actual demand of 27.98 million kw and another 1.4 million kw of reserves.

However, last August, demand, including the necessary reserves, reached 31.38 million kw, which means an 11 percent shortage is possible if demand reaches the same level this August.

But Kepco’s electricity supply plans for this August, which were drawn up before the March 11 quake, show that it plans to supply 33.81 million kw, which is actually 13 percent more than the 29.38 million kw the utility said would be available in the month.

Four of Kepco’s 11 reactors in Fukui Prefecture will be shut down for inspections during the peak demand period.

This August, nuclear power will provide 4.55 million of the 29.38 million kw of available supply.

Fossil fuel plants will provide 13.18 million kw, with hydropower supplying another 6.17 million kw. The remainder, or 5.48 million kw, will come from other utilities.

Many of the measures Kepco is calling for are similar to what Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s customers are experiencing, including reduced use of lighting and elevators in train stations and office temperatures of 28 degrees.

But perhaps the most difficult limit that Kansai households are being asked to abide by is to cut air conditioning use between 1 and 4 p.m. — the peak usage times this summer.

Summertime in Kansai’s cities is generally hotter and more humid than in Tokyo and the surrounding areas served by Tepco. According to the Meteorological Agency, the average temperature for August between 1981 and 2010 was 27.4 degrees in Tokyo and 26.7 degrees in Yokohama.

But Osaka was, literally, the hottest place in Japan during that period, with an average temperature of 28.8 degrees each August. Neighboring Kyoto wasn’t much cooler, with an average of 28.2 degrees.