Business

Current nonnuclear power capacity should suffice for summer: METI

Kyodo

Japan is expected to secure the minimum required power supply capacity this summer, the industry ministry said Thursday, meaning electricity supply will be sufficient during the high-demand season even if none of the country’s nuclear reactors resumes operation by then.

Although the government is expected to call on companies and the general public to help save power, for the third consecutive year it is unlikely to set numerical power-saving targets to address supply concerns that have emerged since the onset of the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant crisis.

All of Japan’s 48 nuclear reactors have been offline since September 2013, meaning the world’s third-largest economy is getting by without a power source that generated almost a third of its electricity at the time the Fukushima disaster struck.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government hopes to revive nuclear power generation in part to cope with the risk of a possible shortage of power supply caused by a malfunction by thermal power plants — currently the main power generators — or other incidents.

The latest power supply outlook could deepen doubts over the government’s logic for restarting the nation’s idled fleet of reactors, some observers said.

Nine regional utilities calculated their extra power supply capacity this summer on the assumption that Japan will see extremely high temperatures like in 2010, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry presented the estimates at a meeting with experts mulling electricity issues.

According to the estimates, the nine regional utilities expect their electricity supply capacity to exceed demand by levels ranging from 3 percent to 12.1 percent — all above the minimum required level of 3 percent.

While utilities serving eastern Japan generally reported a solid level of supply capacity, two utilities in western Japan — Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., which had been particularly dependent on nuclear power before the Fukushima disaster — met the minimum 3 percent level only by contracting for electricity, if needed, from other utilities.

To facilitate power transmission between eastern and western Japan, the industry ministry announced a plan the same day to raise the nation’s East-West transmission capacity from 1.2 million kW now to 3 million kW by the late 2020s.

By installing new transmission lines and frequency converters, the government aims to build enough capacity so that utilities can exchange power to prevent shortages if major disasters occur.

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