News / Asia

Tokyo to Face Power Pinch Through Summer

Workers attempting to repair power lines at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Tomioka, March 24, 2011
Workers attempting to repair power lines at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Tomioka, March 24, 2011
Martyn Williams

Electrical blackouts in Tokyo caused by the March 11 earthquake look set to continue through the summer. The power shortage has already meant lifestyle changes and more could be on the way.

For Japan's capital, it could be a long, hot summer.

The government said Friday that demand for power is likely to outstrip supply by a quarter, if consumers switch on air conditioners to battle Tokyo's typically oppressive summer heat.

Tokyo Electric Power lost a third of its generating capacity when the earthquake struck and power stations automatically shutdown.

Some are gradually returning but others, particularly the nuclear power stations, could takes months or even years to resume operation. The stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant will probably never again produce power.

Banri Kaieda, Japan's industry minister, says only about half of Tokyo's typical additional demand can be met this year. He said the government will look at a range of options, including a hike in electricity charges and longer holidays.

The shortages have already brought changes to Japanese life.

Areas around Tokyo are facing rolling blackouts that have pushed stores and offices to close early. Railway operators are running fewer trains, buildings have switched off some elevators, and neon signs all over Tokyo are dark.

Many cultural and sporting events have also been canceled, but an even bigger change could be on the way.

Yukio Edano, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, says the government will consider the introduction of daylight savings time.

Japan hasn't used daylight savings time since it emerged from U.S. occupation after World War II. The idea is occasionally brought up, but usually shot down by the general public and farmers, who value the light of early mornings.

The government is expected to announce its countermeasures in about one month.

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