Japan’s factories, department stores and households are bracing for a colder-than-normal winter and may have to cut electricity use as more nuclear plants go offline for maintenance amid the Fukushima disaster.
The government says it won’t repeat the mandatory 15 percent cuts in power usage imposed on heavy users in parts of the country in summer. Still, utilities including Kansai Electric Power Co. say they haven’t completed assessments of power supply and demand for November through March.
“The power companies will barely meet demand in the winter,” said Yu Nagatomi at the government’s Institute of Energy Economics, Japan. “The government isn’t expected to impose mandatory cuts in usage, but requests to conserve energy will be needed.”
All but 10 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are offline without any dates for restarts, either because the March earthquake and tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant or for scheduled maintenance. Companies including Komatsu Ltd., the world’s No. 2 maker of construction machinery, have said they may move factories overseas because of concerns that without nuclear power, electricity shortages will ensue.
No reactor has been brought back online since the Fukushima crisis and all of the country’s nuclear stations will stop generating power by May unless utilities can overcome local opposition to restarts.
Japan was using atomic energy to provide about 30 percent of its electricity before the disaster.
Kepco, the utility most reliant on nuclear power, may see demand exceed generation capacity by 8.4 percent, the biggest shortfall among suppliers, according to an assessment released by the government in July.
Three more of Kansai Electric’s reactors are due to go offline for regular checks by the end of December, leaving it with one operational unit, according to a schedule provided by the company. By next summer, the shortfall may be more than 19 percent, the government’s forecast shows.
“We don’t have a view on electricity supply and demand this winter,” Kepco spokesman Yusuke Inoue said.
Tohoku Electric Power Co., which supplies power to the region most affected by the earthquake and tsunami and has all of its nuclear power stations shut down, faces a shortfall of 7 percent this winter.
The company still has 23 hydroelectric stations with a combined capacity of 950 mw out of action from the earthquake, spokesman Hiroki Enami said.
“It’s going to be a severe winter,” he said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the country’s biggest utility, will probably see demand exceed generating capacity by 1.1 percent for the winter and 13 percent next summer, according to the government forecast.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.