In terms of supply and demand for electricity, how will Japan fare this summer? A government panel grappling with this issue has almost reached a conclusion. Scholars re-assessed the situation from the viewpoint of a third party on the assumption that no nuclear reactors would be operating.
The projected electricity shortages were smaller than the initial estimates presented by power companies. The panel said that in the case of Kansai Electric Power Co., which is expected to fall well short of the power supply needed, surplus electricity will be produced if the Oi nuclear power plant is restarted.
Still, the situation is very tight.
Areas covered by KEPCO need to brace themselves and prepare every conceivable means to save electricity, based on the assumption that no nuclear reactors will be operating. Measures will include an ordinance to limit electricity use.
Other regions must also set targets and do their utmost to conserve electricity. Even areas where supply is expected to exceed demand may suddenly face a shortage if major thermal power plants stop operating due to unforeseen problems.
Power companies will have to make extensive use of transmission networks and offer surplus electricity to each other on a daily basis. It is important that all areas maintain as much surplus as possible to prepare for emergencies.
The disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant last year drastically changed people’s ideas toward saving electricity. The government panel estimates that 10 million kilowatts--the equivalent to the output of roughly 10 nuclear reactors--was saved through last summer and this winter.
How much more electricity can we save? This is a challenge that awaits us this summer.
Generally speaking, it is difficult to reduce power use in facilities such as data centers where computers are concentrated. However, the panel came across a number of such facilities that cut back on power use by 10 percent or more last summer.
They achieved this by adjusting their air conditioning and lighting and introducing systems that enable them to monitor electricity consumption on a real-time basis. Although these systems require substantial capital investment, they are effective in saving energy on a continuous basis. Users can expect to recover their investment after several years.
The panel also shed light on new businesses that make deals with power companies by uniting small-lot users, such as supermarkets and restaurants, to secure considerable power-saving.
In addition to saving electricity during peak hours, if the same measures are taken between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., the time used to pump water for pumped-storage power generation would be longer and electricity supply during the daytime would be increased.
Representatives of power companies also attended the panel’s meetings and shared information. The utilities should use the panel’s data when asking users for cooperation or introducing “negawatt” transactions, which buy and sell saved electricity, and electricity rate menus that promote power savings.
The third-party panel’s re-examination of supply and demand was implemented in response to strong public distrust of information released by power companies. Also, in order to recover public trust, all electric power companies must tackle energy-saving in earnest.
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 11
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