Tokyo again called on to save energy as heat, shortfalls persist

The government on Tuesday again asked households and businesses in Tokyo and nearby areas to reduce electricity consumption in response to a spike in demand driven by high temperatures and infrastructure issues.

For the second consecutive day, an advisory has urged people in Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s service area to take reasonable energy-saving steps including turning off unnecessary lights from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. while making appropriate use of air conditioners.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda highlighted the sustained high demand for power in the evenings when calling for the public to cooperate, and said it is "important" that Japan restarts its nuclear power stations to ensure it can meet energy requirements.

Increased supply is expected from the second half of this week or later, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press briefing on Tuesday, citing projected output from power plants that will finish undergoing maintenance and periodic inspections.

Japan faces the prospect of a long, hot summer after its weather agency said Monday that the annual rainy season has recorded its earliest finish in the Tokyo area since records became available in 1951.

Apart from the weather, factors including damage sustained by power stations in a very strong earthquake that struck in March, primarily in the northeastern Tohoku region, have also compromised available capacity.

On Monday, TEPCO as well as power companies serving Hokkaido in northern Japan and the Tohoku region issued for the first time information on how to prepare to reduce strain on supplies, which is intended to raise awareness among the public about the need to conserve energy.

Increased solar power generation and electricity saving efforts in response to Monday's government request, which asked for power conservation in the 3 pm. to 6 p.m. window, are believed to have averted a predicted power crunch.

Numerous businesses responded to the call, with outlets of major convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan Co. shifting the time they prepare fried foods, and businesses, including the Seibu department store in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district, switching off their large neon signage.

However, the strain on supplies is expanding to many parts of eastern Japan, and there is increasing concern the reserve power supply capacity rate will fall below 5 percent in the region, with temperatures projected to rise further Wednesday and bring increased air conditioner use.

The lowest level necessary for stable supply is said to be 3 percent, and the industry ministry will decide Tuesday afternoon whether to issue another advisory on Wednesday.

TEPCO's service area covers Tokyo and eight nearby prefectures including those in the Kanto region, which endured record-high June temperatures over the weekend and also saw the mercury rise to 35 C or higher in some areas Monday.

The heat has kept power demand extremely high in June, according to the ministry. To increase available energy supplies, it says it intends to take measures including sourcing power from other providers.

© Kyodo News