Japan turns down heat and dims lights to avoid power outages after earthquake
Electricity crisis in eastern Japan, power supply shortage after damage from last week’s earthquake, unreasonable chills cause power crisis, Japan likely to avoid blackout, business lobby talks about nuclear power
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese switched off neon signs, dimmed lights and turned off thermostats on Tuesday after the government issued an emergency power-saving appeal to avoid blackouts after last week’s earthquake triggered a serious power shortage.
Up to 3 million households faced the threat of blackouts Tuesday night, as Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) warned of shortfalls in supply and increased demand as snow fell across Tokyo and the temperature dropped to 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 Fahrenheit).
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said that by evening, the country seemed likely to avoid blackouts. Broadcaster NHK said authorities were continuing their warning about power supplies until Wednesday, meaning the world’s No. 3 economy could face blackouts.
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NHK said a similar warning had been lifted for the northeastern region.
A 7.4-magnitude earthquake last week off the northeastern coast — the same area devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 — temporarily cut power to nearly two million households, including hundreds of thousands in Tokyo.
“At this rate, we are getting closer to a country where we will have to make blackouts similar to those that occurred after the earthquake,” Commerce Minister Koichi Hagiuda said earlier on Tuesday.
Hagiuda said the quake hit six thermal plants, causing them to shut down in areas served by Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co (9506T), and the damage could leave some idle for weeks or even months.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno earlier called on residents in eastern Japan affected by the energy crisis to do their part, including lowering thermostats to around 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) and turning off non-essential lights.
Several users responded to the call.
National broadcaster NHK has dimmed its studio lights while electronic retailer Bic Camera (3048.T) has discontinued about half of its television sets in dozens of its stores.
The 634-meter (693-yard) tall Tokyo Skytree has turned off its lights all day for the first time, and operators at the downtown Tokyo Tower have only turned on its lower half.
restarting nuclear power
Retail giant Seven & I Holdings (3382.T) said 8,500 7-Eleven stores set their thermostats to 20 degrees Celsius – one degree colder than usual – while supermarkets in Ito-Yokado were dimming their lights by 10 degrees Celsius. %.
Nissan Motor (7201.T) said it had been using an internal generator for 13 hours at its plant north of the capital.
Many individual consumers have also done their part.
“I use the heater a lot, so I will try to do my part to save energy,” said university student Shuntaro Ishinabe, 22.
Government spokesman Matsuno said the demand for power savings was unlikely to extend beyond Tuesday, given the expected rise in temperatures and the addition of more solar power generation as the weather improved.
Japan has faced a tough energy market since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that paralyzed TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and suspending operations at most of Japan’s nuclear reactors.
With energy prices soaring due to global supply shortages and the Ukraine crisis, Keidanren, Japan’s largest business lobby, has called for a quick restart of nuclear plants.
“The sudden power outage is causing a lot of problems, and I think (the general public) really felt the importance of energy security in light of recent events,” said Masakazu Tokura, President of Keidanren.
“Given the larger trend towards becoming carbon neutral and reducing greenhouse gases, I think there will be more difficulties unless we quickly restart nuclear power plants.”
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(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi and Kantaro Komiya); Additional reporting by Ritsuko Shimizu, Sakura Murakami, Irene Wang, Satoshi Sugiyama, David Dolan, Sam Nose; Writing by Chang Ran Kim; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Percell, Alex Richardson and Jonathan Otis
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