KEPCO warns of 16.3% power shortage in nuclear-free summer

April 24, 2012

Three electric utilities warned of power shortages during a hot summer with all reactors in Japan remaining offline, including Kansai Electric Power Co., which predicted supply capacity will fall 16.3 percent short of peak demand.

Nine regional power utilities on April 23 released their latest supply and demand estimates for peak power use in August at the first meeting of the central government's validation committee on such projections.

The third-party panel was set up to check the utilities’ projections, whose veracity has often been called into question.

Industry minister Yukio Edano said earlier this month that two idle reactors at KEPCO's Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture will not be brought online before the No. 3 reactor at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s Tomari nuclear plant--the nation’s last running reactor--is shut down for regular inspections.

That means by May 6, Japan will have no nuclear power for the first time in 42 years.

The validation committee has been tasked with determining if there is room for additional efforts, including power-saving measures and the mutual supply of excess power between different regional utilities. The results of the panel’s verifications will be summarized after the Golden Week holiday.

"There ought to be a myriad of other ways to curb power use," Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the nongovernmental Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, told the committee meeting on April 23. "There should be leeway for the mutual supply of excess power."

The nine members of the government panel had invited Iida, an expert on the power issue, to provide his opinions.

According to the estimates, the supply capacities of KEPCO, Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Hokkaido Electric will fall 16.3 percent, 3.7 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, of peak power use in August, even with power-saving effects factored in, if power demand matches that of the hot summer of 2010.

The six other power utilities, including Tokyo Electric Power Co., the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, said they will be able to meet demand.

Only KEPCO, which serves the crowded Kansai region, including the major cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, was projected to suffer a supply shortage of 13.5 percent when power use estimates were based on average summer temperatures.

On April 13, KEPCO said supply will fall 18.4 percent short of peak demand in August if the heat of 2010 recurs. That was the day when the government concluded it is appropriate to restart the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Oi nuclear plant. The government and KEPCO plan to have them back online at an early date to prevent a power shortage.

The new estimates provided smaller shortage margins than in the earlier projections. That is because KEPCO factored in power-saving effects and slightly increased its supply capacity estimate.

Still, KEPCO’s shortage margin remained larger than those of the other utilities.

The latest estimates from the nine utilities will provide a basis for the validation committee's scrutiny into possible further increases in supply capacities and for further reductions in power use.

The government plans to come up with measures to deal with this summer's power shortages, including imposing numerical power-saving goals for regions where supply is expected to fall far short of demand.

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The No. 3 reactor, right foreground, and No. 4 reactor of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The No. 3 reactor, right foreground, and No. 4 reactor of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • The No. 3 reactor, right foreground, and No. 4 reactor of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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