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Japan eases power-saving targets

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27 July 2012

The Japan government said it would further ease power-saving targets for areas served by four electric utilities in western and central Japan, as the full-capacity operation of reactor 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi plant alleviated electricity shortages.

For Kepco's service area, where electricity supply is expected to be especially tight with most nuclear reactors still idled, the government will retain its 10 percent power-saving target, compared with summer 2010.

The government will end the 4 percent power-saving targets for the service areas of Chubu Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co., as well as the 3 percent target for Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s service area. The three utilities have been providing part of their electricity to help Kansai Electric ease its supply shortages.

The government will also lower the 7 percent target set for Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s service area to 5 percent.

In Kepco's service area, the government made an exception for manufacturers, which are feeling a large impact on their production activities from the usage restrictions, by lowering the target for them to 5 percent.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and other ministers decided on the revision to the energy-saving targets it imposed under the electricity conservation drive after reactor 4 at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture started full-capacity power generation early Wednesday.

"In Kansai Electric's service area, risk that rolling blackouts will be necessary has been reduced significantly," Noda said at a meeting with the ministers. Still, he sought continued public cooperation for conserving electricity this summer, while adding that for safety reasons amid the high temperatures, the elderly and people with babies should not excessively try to cut back on air conditioning usage.

Given reactor 4's full operation, the rate of surplus capacity of utilities in western and central Japan combined is expected to recover to around 4 percent, surpassing the 3 percent deemed at least necessary to cope with unexpected events, according to an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Since July 2, the government has been asking the nation, excluding Okinawa, which is served by a utility that does not have a nuclear plant, to conserve electricity through Sept. 28 to a reasonable extent to cope with power supply constraints after the nationwide halt of reactors due to the Fukushima nuclear crisis. For areas served by seven utilities, where electricity supply is tight, the government set power-saving targets ranging from 5 to 15 percent.

The government retained power-saving targets of 10 percent and 7 percent for southwestern and northern areas covered by Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Hokkaido Electric Power Co., respectively, due to tight electricity supply conditions there. No numerical saving targets were set for areas served by Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

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