National

Hokkaido power use limits scaled back after hydroelectric plant restores second generator

JIJI, Reuters

The central government has scaled down quake-hit Hokkaido’s power-conservation campaign by half after a second generator was reactivated at a hydroelectric power plant there.

The level 7 quake on Sept. 6, which followed a typhoon, killed over 40 people and caused a prefecture-wide blackout.

Industry minister Hiroshige Seko told a news conference on Friday that the electricity-reduction target of 20 percent would be changed later that night.

Afterward, residents and businesses in Hokkaido would instead be asked to reduce power consumption by 10 percent, he said, adding the savings rate was 9.9 percent between 5 and 6 p.m.

Seko also said rolling blackouts would not be needed for now.

On Friday, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. brought the No. 2 generator at its Kyogoku hydroelectric power plant back online after reactivating the No. 1 unit Thursday.

As a result, the utility’s supply capacity rose to 3.86 million kilowatts from 3.46 million kilowatts around the middle of the week.

That’s slightly above the peak demand level of 3.83 million kilowatts, allowing the central government to end the 20 percent power-saving target.

The magnitude 6.7 quake prompted the Tomato-Atsuma thermal power plant, which supplies about half of the island’s electricity, to shut down, sparking a prefecture-wide blackout.

Of the thermal plant’s three generators, the No. 1 unit, with a capacity of 350,000 kilowatts, is expected to be restored within the month, at the earliest.

Whether the prefecture will have enough power to get through its frigid winter may depend on whether Hokkaido Electric can get the Tomato-Atsuma plant back in full gear. The quake damaged all three generators, Seko said.

“Power supplies will become quite stable” once the No. 1 unit is restarted, he said. This is expected to take over a month, the minister said earlier this week.