Japanese turn down heating and lights as power cuts loom after earthquake

Neon signs were turned off, lights dimmed and thermostats switched off in Japan on Tuesday after the government issued an urgent appeal to save energy, warning of power cuts after an earthquake last week caused a severe shortage of electricity.

As snow fell in Tokyo and the temperature dropped to 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said demand had increased and up to 3 million homes could lose power if the utilization rates did not drop.

“At this rate, we are approaching a state where we will have to carry out power cuts similar to those which took place after the earthquake,” said the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry ( METI) Koichi Hagiuda at a press conference.

Last week’s magnitude 7.4 earthquake off the northeast coast – the same region devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 – temporarily knocked out power to around 2 million homes, including hundreds of thousands in Tokyo.

The earthquake struck six thermal power plants, knocking them out of service in areas served by Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co, and the damage could leave some of them idle for weeks or even months, Hagiuda said.

Hagiuda called for about 5% more energy savings every hour from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. local time, which equates to about 2 million kilowatts per hour.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno has previously called on residents of eastern Japan affected by the electricity crisis to do their part.

“We ask for your cooperation…for example by lowering your thermostats…and turning off all unnecessary lights,” he told a press conference.

Many users answered the call.

National broadcaster NHK dimmed its studio lights while electronics retailer Bic Camera turned off around half of the TVs in dozens of its stores.

The 634-meter Tokyo Skytree tower turned off its lights all day for the first time, and downtown Tokyo Tower operators lit only its lower half.

Retail giant Seven & I Holdings said 8,500 7-Eleven stores were setting their thermostats to 68 F – one degree cooler than usual – while its Ito-Yokado supermarkets dimmed their lights by 10%.

Nissan Motor said it used an in-house generator for 13 hours at its plant north of the capital.

Many individual consumers also did their part.

“I use the heating a lot, so I will try to do my part to save energy,” said Shuntaro Ishinabe, 22, a student.

Government spokesman Matsuno said the demand for power conservation was unlikely to last beyond Tuesday given the expected rise in temperatures and the addition of more electricity generation. solar power as the weather improved.

Japan has faced a tough energy market since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami crippled Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and leading to the suspension of operations at most reactors. Japanese nuclear.

With energy prices soaring on tight global supply and the war in Ukraine, Japan’s biggest business lobby, Keidanren, has called for a rapid restart of nuclear power plants.

“A sudden power shutdown causes a lot of trouble, and I think (the general public) has really felt the importance of energy security given recent events,” Keidanren Chairman Masakazu Tokura said.

“Given the general trend towards becoming carbon neutral and reducing greenhouse gases, I think there will be more difficulties unless we quickly restart nuclear plants.”

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