Japan’s worst power crisis in over a decade is a culmination of events starting from the Fukushima disaster, and is an issue that the nation won’t be able to quickly shake.
The world’s third-largest economy has been running on a thinner supply of electricity since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011 shut its massive fleet of nuclear reactors. Market reforms over the next 10 years aimed at boosting security of supply and making the grid cleaner led to utilities retiring inefficient and dirty power plants, crimping resources further.
That set the background for the current scenario. A strong earthquake last week stretched the power grid, and the situation was made worse on Tuesday by a surprise blast of frigid weather across Tokyo. Solar output dropped and there wasn’t enough gas or coal-fired power plants to make up the difference. The region’s top utility narrowly avoided a blackout in one of the world’s most advanced cities after asking households and businesses to drastically cut consumption.