A series of cold spells is causing a tight electricity supply and demand situation nationwide. The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, which is composed of major power companies from across the country, has called on people to use electricity efficiently.
It is said that a surge in demand for heating is causing a shortage of liquefied natural gas (LNG), a major energy source for utility firms. If power supply is disrupted, low temperatures will endanger people’s health. Power companies must make an all-out effort to ensure a stable supply of electricity.
The companies and people of Japan also need to cooperate in energy-saving efforts to the degree possible, and it is curious that the government has not officially requested them to do so. That makes us wonder about the government’s attitude toward risk management.
The restart of nuclear power plants whose safety has been confirmed is indispensable for securing a stable supply of electricity. The government should support the early restart of such nuclear power plants.
More than 90% of electric power facilities are already being used, and more and more utilities are seeing utilization rates of 99%, which means they have virtually no reserves.
The power industry has been walking a tightrope, with companies interchanging power [between grids] to avoid the risk of a blackout.
If facilities break down at a large power plant, it could cause a large-scale blackout. In winter, power plants could encounter such unexpected situations as frozen pipelines. Utility firms must overcome the power crisis by taking such measures as utilizing outdated power plants.
Some utilities are cutting down on power supply to customers who require a large amount of electricity. It is hoped that power companies will build a flexible framework for prioritizing supply to hospitals, schools, and households.
Every household is also expected to cooperate by exercising wise judgment in saving electricity, such as turning off the lights in a room that isn’t being used and reducing the number of rooms being heated.
It is difficult to suddenly increase LNG imports in response to a surge in heating demand, because demand for LNG is also rising in China and South Korea due to cold weather. Japan has only a two-week stockpile of LNG, and it does not have a stockpiling system like it has for crude oil. It is said the LNG shortage will continue for the immediate future.
Photovoltaic power generation cannot be used to respond to a power shortage because continued unseasonable weather means less electricity is generated. The government aims to realize a carbon-neutral society by 2050 by expanding renewable energy sources, such as solar and offshore wind power. The goal can be achieved, however, only if a system for stable power supply is established.
The government should begin by carefully explaining to the people the severe situation surrounding electricity and should not hesitate to call for cooperation in energy saving.