Sat, May 19, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Japan urges energy cuts amid shortage fears due to nuclear plant shutdowns

AFP, Tokyo

Employees of SMBC Nikko Securities Inc work using only LED desk lights on June 30 last year in Tokyo. Businesses were asked yesterday to cut consumption by 15 percent to prevent power shortages.

Photo: Reuters

The Japanese government yesterday called on homes and businesses to cut their energy use by as much as 15 percent amid fears that nuclear plant shutdowns would spark power shortages and blackouts.

With the coming of summer, Japan’s utilities are warning of a shortfall. Kansai Electric, which serves the commercial hubs of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, has warned it will be 15 percent short, with utilities in other areas expected to redirect any saved power to energy-starved regions, the government said.

Power providers in the northern island of Hokkaido and southern Kyushu have also warned they may not be able to meet demand, with customers in those regions being asked to cut energy use between 7 and 10 percent.

A power-saving order was issued last year in the wake of Japan’s nuclear crisis sparked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

However, yesterday’s call was not mandatory because it may put “too much of a burden on business activity,” Japanese Economy Minister Motohisa Furukawa told a press briefing.

The cuts last year, aimed at large energy users, sparked complaints from the business sector and fears it may prompt manufacturers to move production overseas.

Japan’s power-saving campaign will run from July through September, as Kansai and some other utilities prepare for scheduled blackouts.

The resource-poor country used to draw about one-third of its electricity from atomic power, but last year’s meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has generated anti-nuclear sentiment among the public

All of Japan’s 50 commercial reactors have now been switched off, and when — or if — they will be restarted remains uncertain.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Thursday he would soon make a final decision on restarting reactors at Oi in Fukui Prefecture.

Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, which supplies Tokyo and surrounding areas, has said it expects to be able to meet demand this summer thanks to continuing power saving by businesses and households.

The cost of utilities has soared as companies turned to expensive alternatives to fill the gap left by the shutting down of reactors.

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