According to The Asahi Shimbun, Japanese households will be able to crank up their air conditioners to survive the record-setting heat wave without the risk of power outages, thanks to conservation efforts and the spread of renewable energies.
The central government had previously encouraged residents and businesses to cut their summer power usage to prevent energy shortages.
But for the third consecutive year, the government has not issued such a request.
Instead, the government has asked people to be wary of heatstroke symptoms as the torrid temperatures are expected to continue through August.
“Please turn on air conditioners and give the highest priority to preventing heatstroke,” a government official said.
The biggest test for Japan’s electricity supply this year came on July 23, when the mercury hit a Japanese record 41.1 degrees in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, and the temperature topped 40 degrees for the first time on record in Tokyo.
Air-conditioning usage in areas covered by Tokyo Electric Power Co. pushed peak demand to 56.53 million kilowatts between 2 p.m. and 3 pm., marking its highest demand this summer.
But TEPCO still had a 7.7-percent supply capacity against maximum demand, exceeding its minimum reserve rate of 3 percent, which is considered the lowest level necessary for a stable supply.
On the same day, electricity demand hit 26.07 million kilowatts at Chubu Electric Power Co., the highest for the utility this summer, when Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture, in central Japan, baked under 40.7-degree heat.
But Chubu Electric Power still had a supply capacity of 12 percent.
The principal factor behind the reserve capacity rates are the energy-saving efforts that were ingrained across Japan after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“Energy saving has become common at factories and homes as a result of the rolling blackouts that were implemented in the wake of the 2011 disaster,” an official of TEPCO Power Grid Inc., a power transmission and distribution utility, said.
Maximum electricity demand before the disaster was about 60 million kilowatts. After the disaster, it fell by about 5 million kilowatts.
The spread of renewable energies, such as solar power generation, also helped to ensure a sufficient supply capacity.
Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on July 26, the summer’s maximum electricity demand in areas covered by Kyushu Electric Power Co. reached 16.01 million kilowatts. During that period, solar power provided 4.32 million kilowatts, or 27 percent, of the total energy supplied by Kyushu Electric Power.
Emergency measures have also been formulated, such as “negawatt” transactions, in which electric power companies facing a power crunch ask major consumers, such as factories, to limit their electricity usage and switch to their own in-house power generation supplies.
In exchange, the customers can receive discounts on their power bills.
Kyushu Electric Power and TEPCO have already experienced negawatt transactions.
Another measure is “power interchange,” through which power companies can “share” their electricity.
Power interchanges have been implemented 12 times since April 2015.
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