The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has compiled an outlook for electricity supply and demand, showing that Japan will once again be under nationwide energy pressure. next winter.
The electricity supply reserve rate is expected to fall into negative territory in the service area of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TEPCO), including the Tokyo metropolitan area.
In March, electricity supply and demand conditions in eastern Japan were so tight that Japan faced a crisis, triggering the first-ever electricity supply warning. We must strictly recognize that power outages in TEPCO service areas have become the norm. And, along with the rapid reactivation of nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed, measures to increase the power supply must be accelerated.
Moreover, continued investment is also crucial to ensure the availability of a stable energy supply. This includes rebuilding aging thermal power plants. Mechanisms to ensure the recoupment of invested funds should also be considered to incentivize utilities to overcome their caution towards new investments in the face of electricity decarbonization and deregulation.
Winter shortages ahead
According to METI, with the exception of Hokkaido, Tohoku and Okinawa, the country’s electricity supply will be strained when the reserve power capacity ratio falls below the 3% safety margin during the coldest months of January and February next winter. Although a smooth electricity exchange is a matter of time, preparations must also be made for ordinances limiting users’ electricity consumption in large quantities during an electricity crisis.
The power shortage in TEPCO’s service area is particularly serious. The reserve rate for January and February 2023 is expected to be -1.7% and -1.5%, respectively, which puts it below the necessary supply capacity level. One of the reasons for this is the impact of the March 2022 earthquake off the coast of Fukushima prefecture which, along with other factors, put the restoration of idle thermal power plants in limbo.
Use available power plants
METI responded, saying it planned to restart aging thermal plants, as well as buy excess electricity from factories and other sources. Even so, the fear remains that these measures will fail to overcome the supply shortage. Therefore, there is an urgent need to establish a system that notifies users when the supply-demand ratio becomes tight and asks them to conserve electricity as soon as possible.
The tightening of the electricity supply-demand balance in winter is due to the increase in electricity demand that accompanies cold temperatures. At the same time, solar power plants, installed en masse, do not work in bad weather. What is needed is to speed up the construction of electrical facilities that would not be affected by the weather so that a stable supply of electricity can be established to sustain the nation.
The restarting of existing nuclear power plants that are safe should also be encouraged so that the power supply can be increased. Electricity bills are soaring due to rising global energy costs and are weighing heavily on household budgets. The use of nuclear energy can help us break away from a supply-demand balance that relies on energy conservation and will also help reduce our electricity bills.
METI encourages the liberalization of the electricity market in order to encourage competition. But this has become a major factor impairing stable power supply. We must look reality in the face and not hesitate to reconsider this policy.
(Read the editorial in Japanese on this link.)
Author: editorial board, The Sankei Shimbun