Kansai leaders vow 15% cut in summer electricity use


Staff Writer

Kansai government leaders agreed Saturday to cut electricity use in the region by at least 15 percent between July and September under the assumption that the Oi No. 3 and No. 4 nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture won’t be restarted in time to meet peak summer demand.

The governors and mayors of the seven-prefecture, two-city Union of Kansai Governments decided on the measure after a meeting with Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of nuclear policy, who attended the meeting to explain why the central government wants to restart the reactors.

Under the agreement, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Shiga, Wakayama, Tottori and Tokushima prefectures, as well as the cities of Osaka and Sakai, will enact policies to cut use of electricity at public facilities by at least 15 percent from 2010 levels between July 2 and Sept. 7 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Air conditioners will be reset to higher temperatures, possibly 28 degrees, and lighting in public places will be dimmed. Other Kansai cities not officially part of the union but attending as observers, including Kyoto, are expected to adopt the same measures.

2010 was chosen as the base year because it was an unusually hot summer during which electricity demand spiked to some of the highest levels of the last decade.

“These measures are being taken under the pretext that the Oi No. 3 and No. 4 reactors will not be restarted in time to meet the demand for electricity this summer,” said Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido, head of the union.

He added, however, that if the Oi reactors are fired back up before the summer peak ends, the union will revisit the conservation measures. Estimates are that the reactors would take between six weeks to two months to reach full power.

Hosono, who was born in Ayabe, Kyoto Prefecture, less than 30 km from the Oi reactors, and who grew up in Shiga Prefecture, which is strongly opposed to restarting the reactors out of fear of what would happen to Lake Biwa in the event of an accident, spoke on the measures the central government had taken to ensure safety at the plant.

“We will ensure that there won’t be another accident like Fukushima,” Hosono said.

But Kansai’s leaders were unconvinced despite growing pressure from the Kansai Economic Federation and other business groups to allow the restart.

Making the central government’s job harder, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa has indicated that his own approval for the reactor’s restart depends on first obtaining the understanding of the Kansai region.

“What the central government has are policies, especially a policy for protecting against tsunami. But a policy is not a safety standard, not something that is codified in law. Without a standard, it makes no sense to go forward with a restart,” Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said following Saturday’s meeting. “Therefore both myself and the other members of the union cannot approve the restart.”

Exactly how much electricity Kansai will need this summer will depend on the weather as well as conservation measures, especially during the hottest time of the summer from the end of July to mid-August.

While the central government and Kansai Electric Power Co. fear rolling blackouts may be necessary, Kansai leaders said they will begin studying a variety of local policy measures to prevent this from happening.

The union is due to meet again at the end of the month, when more specific actions for meeting the 15 percent reduction goal with as little impact on businesses are expected to be discussed.