TOKYO May 7 Summer power supply in nuclear-free
Japan may be better than utilities' forecasts, a
government-backed panel said on Monday.
However, the Kansai region - including the country's
second-biggest metropolitan area of Osaka - will still see a
The findings are based on all of Japan's nuclear reactors
Utilities are struggling to secure stable power supplies as
all 50 reactors are offline for the first time in 42 years in
the wake of public safety concerns following last year's
Fukushima nuclear crisis in the wake of a huge earthquake and
Japan could have a power surplus of 0.1 percent in August, a
preliminary calculation by the panel showed, compared with a 0.4
percent shortage estimated by the utilities.
The panel's calculation took into account the possible
effect of deals whereby utilities offer big businesses cheaper
electricity in exchange for power usage restrictions when there
are immediate shortage risks.
It also included the impact from electricity conservation
efforts and a slight, expected increase in power supply.
Kansai Electric, the utility most reliant on nuclear energy
in Japan, may have a power shortage of 14.9 percent in August
according to the panel. The company had forecast a 16.3 percent
Forecasts were based on temperatures similar to those in the
record hot summer of 2010.
The panel of nine was formed by the government in April to
review the utilities' power forecasts for the summer, when
demand peaks due to the nation's air conditioners being switched
on to combat the hot weather.
Prior to the Fukushima crisis, nuclear power accounted for
about 30 percent of Japan's electricity demand. To cope with the
loss, utilities have restarted fossil fuel plants but face huge
fuel costs, while the aged facilities also risk breakdowns.
In the business year to March 2013, utilities are expected
to face an additional 3.1 trillion yen ($38.8 billion) in fuel
fees even if liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil and coal costs
remain at the current level, a document from the panel showed.
Industry Minister Yukio Edano has said that while he wants
to avoid issuing mandatory power use restrictions, possibilities
of usage limits or rolling blackouts remain.
With power shortage risks looming, some experts argue that
manufacturers could leave the country to seek other production
bases, which would be a blow to Japan's $5 trillion economy.
"We need to debate the tough situation under burden of heavy
(fuel) costs ... This could take away our economic power in the
future," said Keigo Akimoto, a panel member.
The government is trying to restart two reactors at Kansai
Electric's Ohi nuclear plant, but is being opposed by the public
and local authorities.
The panel will finalise the summer power forecast and make
recommendations on power conservation measures as early as
Thursday, a government official said.
($1 = 79.8800 Japanese yen)
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by David Hulmes)