Japan Issues Unprecedented Warning of Nationwide Electricity Shortage

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 22: A man enters a convenience store that has turned off its exterior
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Japan’s Industry Ministry and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) issued a joint statement on Monday night asking residents of 16 Japanese prefectures, including Tokyo, to limit their electricity consumption due to a nationwide power shortage, Kyodo News reported on Tuesday.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) issued its “first-ever warning over electricity availability” on the night of March 21, according to Kyodo News. The statement asked residents across 16 Japanese prefectures to “cooperate in power-saving efforts” through at least March 22. The affected prefectures spanned central and northeastern Japan and included Tokyo, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Niigata, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka.

Japan’s federal government asked millions of residents to reduce their electricity usage on Monday for a number of reasons, including the suspended operation of some thermal power plants after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan’s coast on March 16.

“Quake damage has disrupted operations of a 600,000-kilowatt unit at the Hirono Thermal Power Station in Fukushima, run by TEPCO and Chubu Electric Power Co., and Electric Power Development Co.’s 1.2-kw thermal plant in Kanagawa Prefecture,” Kyodo News reported on March 22.

“In addition to the suspension of thermal power plants due to the quake, significant demand increase caused by bad weather are the factors for the strained power supply and demand situation at this time,” Japanese Industry Minister Hagiuda Koichi told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.

He added that by “bad weather” he referred to colder weather than usual coupled with cloudy skies.

“Rainy weather curbs solar power output,” Hagiuda pointed out.

The Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) and other major television networks based in Tokyo were forced to air news segments on Tuesday filmed under “dim studio lights,” Kyodo News revealed.

The Tokyo Skytree Tower, a 634-meter broadcasting and observation tower, turned off its lights all day Tuesday for the first time in its history, according to Reuters.

Japanese government authorities said on March 22 they would continue to keep a power-supply warning in place through March 23, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Japan has relied more heavily upon thermal power plants for its energy production since a 2011 nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan’s Fukushima prefecture — caused by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami — prompted Tokyo to require tougher nuclear power regulations.

“[M]any of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been offline under stricter regulations introduced after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster, [and] the country has been highly dependent on thermal power, accounting for 76.3 percent of total power generation capacity in fiscal 2020 ended in March 2021,” Kyodo News noted on Tuesday.


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