The government has presented summer power-saving targets for individual electric power companies.
The main point is large-scale power transfers across regional borders. The government, power companies and users are all urged to adopt “wise electricity usage” with an eye toward a nuclear-free society.
This summer, the government will ask users in the service areas of the Chugoku, Hokuriku and Chubu electric power companies to cut their electricity use by about 5 percent, although the three utilities are expected to have surpluses of 3 percent or more. By transferring surplus power to Kansai Electric Power Co., the government wants to avoid excessive power savings as much as possible within KEPCO’s service areas.
Some people in the service areas of the three utilities may ask why they have to reduce electricity usage. However, the 5-percent cut is based on figures for the extremely hot summer of 2010. If users adjust lighting and air conditioning in office buildings and other facilities, the target can be met.
Rather, we should think about the significance of building up efforts to save and transfer power.
Up to now, power companies, as regional monopolies, have increased supply on their own and have hardly shared power except in emergencies. This is because they were able to cover the costs to build new power plants by raising electricity charges.
But there would be little wasted energy if they transferred surplus power to each other.
The Japanese archipelago stretches from north to south, so it is not rare for the climates and electricity consumption to differ widely by region. To encourage new companies’ entrance into power generation businesses and to increase the use of natural energies, it would be more efficient to unify power transmission networks and adjust supply and demand on an extensive scale.
To actually transfer surplus power, electric power companies need to grasp the supply and demand situation at each utility and develop technology to effectively transfer power. Close communication is also needed to carry out extensive power transfers on a routine basis. The establishment of a command center to control and keep watch on the whole system must also be studied.
Negawatt transactions that allow users to sell the electricity they save to power companies should also be implemented on a nationwide scale. Instead of limiting the transactions to within areas covered by each utility, the power companies should expand the transactions beyond the borders so that they can buy electricity from office buildings and facilities in other regions. Users can then compare prices and sell power to the utilities that offer the best rates.
Some utilities are reluctant to save electricity for other power companies, apparently fearing that transferring surplus power could break down their regional monopolies.
However, with a sharp rise in fuel expenses for thermal power generation, all utilities must be aware that the more power that is used, the more losses they will incur. Under such circumstances, power companies are facing the urgent problem of how to efficiently curb demand.
The decision for electricity-saving measures this time was made later than last year, when the government decided to issue an ordinance to limit electricity usage. The government needs to reflect on the fact that it was late in taking effective measures and keep a strict eye on power companies regarding extensive transfer of power.
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 18
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