Japan heads into 2nd summer with power shortages looming

July 03, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Japan entered a power-saving mode on July 2 with all 50 of its nuclear reactors shut down but one, with particularly demanding targets set in the western part of the nation.

The government has called for a 15 percent cut from 2010 levels in Kansai Electric Power Co.’s service area, a 10 percent cut in Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s service area and a 7 percent cut in Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s service area.

The numerical targets will remain in place until Sept. 7.

The government will also call for a 7 percent cut in Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s service area from July 23 to Sept. 14.

In addition, customers of Chubu Electric Power Co., Chugoku Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. have been asked to cut power consumption by 5 percent to supply electricity to Kansai Electric.

The No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture was restarted on July 1. When it reaches full operations around July 8, the target for Kansai Electric will be lowered to 10 percent, and those for Chubu, Chugoku and Hokuriku Electric will be reduced to 3 to 4 percent.

Kansai, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaido Electric are making preparations for possible rolling blackouts to prevent an unexpected outage.

Hokkaido Electric was flooded with 3,900 inquiries on July 2 after it announced area groupings for a rolling blackout.

In conjunction with the targets, major companies and railways have introduced power-saving plans, with a major effort being made in the western part of the country.

Daiwa House Industry Co., a major home builder, plans to cut power consumption by 30 percent from 2010 levels.

The company installed 256 lithium-ion storage batteries at its 23-story headquarters building in Osaka in June.

The batteries, each with a capacity of 2 kilowatt-hours, are recharged at night and used to power personal computers and desktop lighting from 1 p.m. to lower peak demand.

Panasonic Corp., which operates a number of factories in the Kansai region, will move up summer holidays from the traditional Bon period in mid-August.

About 1,000 employees at the company’s headquarters in Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture, will take their days off between July 23 and July 27.

Kyushu Railway Co. will cut back on services to reduce power consumption. Runs will be suspended or shortened for 17 trains per day, including limited express, while the number of cars will be reduced for nine trains.

Convenience store chain Lawson Inc., which plans to cut power consumption by 25 percent from 2010 levels, raised temperatures for store air conditioners by 2 degrees and those for beverage cases by 1 degree on July 1.

The company also turned off lighting for cases for frozen foods and beverages in plastic bottles and also blacked out parts of store sign illuminations.

Coca-Cola (Japan) Co. and Fuji Electric Co. plan to introduce a beverage vending machine that can cut daytime electricity consumption by 95 percent as early as winter.

The companies increased the use of vacuum insulation panels and improved the door’s airtightness. Pre-release experiments began on July 2.

Beverages will be kept at 5 degrees or lower for 16 hours during the day if they are cooled for eight hours at night, according to the companies.

All power-saving targets are nonbinding, unlike orders put in place in the service areas of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. last summer following the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

No targets have been set for the service areas of TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power this year. The two companies plan to increase output at thermal power stations to meet summer demand.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Some escalators are suspended at Hankyu Corp.’s Umeda Station in Osaka on July 2. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Some escalators are suspended at Hankyu Corp.’s Umeda Station in Osaka on July 2. (The Asahi Shimbun)

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  • Some escalators are suspended at Hankyu Corp.’s Umeda Station in Osaka on July 2. (The Asahi Shimbun)
  • Lighting is turned off at JR Hakata City commercial complex and its surroundings in Fukuoka on July 2. (The Asahi Shimbun)
  • A Yokohama city employee uses a fan on July 2. Office windows are open. (The Asahi Shimbun)

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