Japan Data

Energy Crunch Concerns Lead Japan’s Government to Call for Reduced AC Use

Economy Politics Lifestyle

Issues with both nuclear and thermal power plants leave Japan with little leeway to supply its energy needs during the heat of summer.

After the shutting down of a thermal power plant damaged in the March 2022 Fukushima earthquake, a first power shortage warning was announced for the areas served by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) and Tōhoku Electric Power. The balance of supply and demand of electricity has very little leeway due to aging thermal power plants and holdups in restarting nuclear power plants, so it will continue to be a fine line for electricity companies to provide energy. As Japan heads into summer, the government is calling on households and businesses to conserve electricity.

Along with slow progress in restarting nuclear power plants suspended from operation due to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, thermal power plants that have become too old to operate are being decommissioned, and this has led to a decrease in Japan’s electricity supply capacity. The government has asked households and businesses for their cooperation in conserving as much electricity as possible without affecting economic activities. This is the first nationwide request to save energy since 2015.

In order to provide a stable supply of electricity, the reserve rate, which indicates the amount of surplus supply capacity over demand, needs to be at least 3%. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is forecasting that if temperatures in summer 2022 reach a 10-year high, the reserve rate will fall to 3.1% in the three service areas of Tōhoku, Tokyo, and Chūbu, taking capacity right down to the line. Capacity will also be hard to predict in the Hokuriku, Kansai, Chūgoku, Shikoku, and Kyūshū regions as the reserve rate is expected to fall to 3.8%.

If the fine balance between electricity generation and use is lost, it could lead to large-scale blackouts and cause social and economic disruption. The government is moving to implement a number of measures, including asking that air conditioners in homes be set to 28º, while also cautioning about heatstroke; requesting that companies save electricity; and moving to restart the currently suspended operations of thermal power plants.

In the coldest period of next winter, the reserve rate is projected to drop even further nationwide. In the region serviced by TEPCO, it is forecast to fall into the negative during the period January to February 2023 and it is also expected to fall below 3% in the six supply regions of Chūbu, Hokuriku, Kansai, Chūgoku, Shikoku, and Kyūshū.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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