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2013年7月 2日 (火)

節電スタート 省エネ頼みでは停電が心配だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 2, 2013
Reliance only on energy saving won’t stop power outage fears
節電スタート 省エネ頼みでは停電が心配だ(7月1日付・読売社説)

The government-designated summer electricity-saving period began Monday.

Idled nuclear power plants have not been reactivated in time for summer, and the nation’s power supply-demand situation remains shaky at best.

Both businesses and households should devote reasonable efforts to conserve electricity to get through the summer heat.

The risk of a sudden, extensive blackout heightens in summer when power consumption rises sharply with increased use of such appliances as air conditioners because of the onslaught of scorching heat. It is extremely important to ensure there is a power supply surplus by refraining from wasting electricity.

Last summer, a power-saving target of a maximum of 15 percent was set for the service areas of seven electric power companies in Kansai, Kyushu and other regions.

Nuclear plants indispensable

This summer, no electricity-saving target has been set because electric power companies have managed to augment their power supplies by making full use of old-fashioned thermal power stations. Power-saving efforts that have taken root in businesses and households have contributed to this.

It is overly optimistic, however, to assume that the nation’s electricity demand can be met only by means of power-saving efforts.

For instance, Kansai Electric Power Co.’s supply reserve ratio, or the percentage of surplus power supplies in excess of assumed maximum power demand, is barely above 3 percent, the lowest possible ratio that would preclude a power outage, even taking into account reactors Nos. 3 and 4 of the utility’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, the only ones operating in the country.

If the Oi plant’s reactors are halted, KEPCO’s supply reserve ratio will drop to no more than 1 percent. In that event, the utility would find it inevitable to set a power-saving target and take other measures.

The government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is reported to be in favor of permitting the Oi plant’s two reactors to operate until September, when they are scheduled to undergo a routine safety check. The NRA’s policy in this respect is reasonable.

Other utilities must not let their guard down, as an increasing number of thermal power stations have failed to operate properly because they have been running at full blast.

After suffering a succession of emergency stoppages of its thermal power plants late last month, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. narrowly avoided a serious situation by securing electricity from Tohoku Electric Power Co. to make up for the shortfall. Sufficient precautionary steps must be taken to ensure no major blackout takes place due to trouble occurring at more than one power plant as electricity demand soars during summer.

The immense economic losses from stopping nuclear power plants must not be overlooked. The cost of fuel to cover power shortages due to idled nuclear power plants through thermal power generation is expected to reach nearly 4 trillion yen this fiscal year. This means a colossal amount of the nation’s wealth has been flowing out into resources-rich countries, exacerbating the huge trade deficits.

All power utilities have been naturally keen to procure fuels such as liquefied natural gas at lower costs, but they are in disadvantageous positions in price negotiations as they have no other alternative but to depend on thermal power generation.

Drops in jobs, income

If this situation remains unchanged, electricity rates are certain to rise further, placing a greater burden on both family budgets and businesses. Besides this, there is a danger that the hollowing-out of industries will increase, possibly leading to a decline in employment and wages.

To avoid the double whammy of a rise in the financial burden and a shrinkage of income, it is imperative to put nuclear power plants back into operation once their safety is confirmed, thereby securing the power generation necessary for this country. This should be the final summer that the threat of power shortages hovers over us.

A set of new safety standards for nuclear power plants is scheduled to be put into force soon. The NRA should proceed to screen the safety of nuclear power plants without delay.

The government, for its part, must do its utmost to obtain the understanding of local entities hosting nuclear power plants about the wisdom of reactivating those plants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2013)
(2013年7月1日01時35分  読売新聞)


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