Every May, METI urges the nation to conserve power ahead of the scorching summer heat, one of Japan’s two peak demand seasons. This year METI Minister Hagiuda took a step that the government usually holds until the very last: He aimed his power- saving message squarely at households. This is surprising considering that national elections are almost six weeks away. The minister was careful to note that “the country has sufficient power but we need to stay alert in case of plant glitches and possible fuel shortages due to the conflict in Ukraine.”
Just how little Japan’s power system has in reserve was highlighted in March when a strong earthquake in the northeast took more than a dozen coal, gas and hydropower plants offline. The Tokyo area narrowly escaped a blackout, thanks to frantic government calls to cut power consumption and pumped hydro storage facilities.
In the heat of summer, and its accompanying typhoon season, the potential for disruptions is higher than ever; at least 1 GW of capacity damaged by the March quake will remain under repair. Minister Hagiuda’s appeal is meant to ensure the public can shrink its power use quickly and be ready to do so multiple times.
How much power conservation can play a role in decarbonization will be put to a stress test over the next three to four months.