Gov't asks companies, households across Japan to save power

The government said Tuesday it will ask companies and households across Japan to save electricity due to a possible power crunch in the summer and winter.

It will be the first time since fiscal 2015 that the government has filed such a request on a nationwide scale. The last such occurrence came in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, when the government asked that energy be saved from fiscal 2012.

In a meeting of relevant Cabinet ministers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno asked the public to conserve energy but said the government will not set numerical targets to address supply concerns, at least for this summer.

While most of the nuclear power plants in the country remain offline under stricter safety regulations imposed since the Fukushima nuclear accident, an increasing number of thermal power plants have been closed down due to aging.

Such developments have led to a reduction in Japan's overall electricity supply capabilities.

Officials say it is necessary to secure at least 3 percent of the reserve rate for a stable power supply. But the government projects the rate will dwindle to 3.1 percent in July in three areas served by Tohoku Electric Power Co., Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., and Chubu Electric Power Co.

It is also expected that the reserve rate will drop to minus 0.6 percent in January in the Tokyo Electric service area, the government said.

"We will take every possible measure including the activation of idle electricity sources and procuring additional fuels, as well as the utilization of renewables and nuclear power as much as possible," industry minster Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.

The minister of economy, trade and industry said the government will ask the public to turn off unnecessary lights and set air conditioners at 28 C.

Prior to the ministerial meeting, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said it will develop an alert system to request the public to save power, in addition to the current power crunch warning system.

Other measures include restrictions targeting large companies and procedures for a smooth execution of intentional power outages in designated areas to avoid large-scale blackouts.

In July, the supply reserve rate is projected to fall to 3.8 percent in the service areas of five utilities including Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co.

The rate is likely to drop to 1.3 percent in January in the service areas of six utilities -- Chubu, Hokuriku, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu electric power companies.

© Kyodo News