＜From “Kiko Network News” Vol.31 ,July 2003＞
TEPCO’s Nuclear Power Plants Offline:
An opportunity to switch to low carbon society
Following a series of scandals involving cover-ups of damaged reactors and falsified repair records, operations at all of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s 17 nuclear power plants were suspended as of April 15 to allow for inspections and repairs. Two plants have since resumed operations, but fifteen remain offline at the time of writing (June 25). Though several more plants may come back online, the fact remains that the Tokyo area finally faces a summer without reliance on nuclear power.
Nuclear Power Plants: costly facilities built for a mere 100 hours of peak demand per year
A look at electricity use throughout the day reveals peaks in demand from 11 am to noon, and from 1 pm to 4 pm. As illustrated in the graph below, the difference between a day’s peak time and non-peak time has increased in recent decades. This is in part because power plants have been built in excess in order to meet the increasing demands during peak time. However, in a year Tokyo sees a maximum of 100 hours of demand exceeding 56GWh, and a maximum of only 30 hours of demand in excess of 60GWh.
During the summer peaks, reductions are most necessary in the industrial and commercial sectors
When searching for the causes of peaks in demand, it becomes apparent that business-related activities account for 70% of electricity consumption (25% industrial, 45% commercial) during the summer peaks, while households account for about 30% (according to Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) estimates). Furthermore, household energy use is highest in the evening (5 pm to 10 pm) and bottoms out in the afternoon when residents are not at home (Consumer Co-operative Institute of Japan). It is therefore clearly up to the industrial and commercial sectors to take immediate action in order to realize a cut in energy consumption during peak hours. Given these facts, TEPCO’s frantic calls for consumers to save energy “for fear of power outages” appear way off the mark.
GRAPH: Electricity Usage in One Day
From the Tokyo Metropolitan Governments Homepage (the 2001 data are for July 24, the day of highest demand to date)
Reconsidering electricity demand
In order to avoid power outages this summer, it is obvious that businesses and corporations must make reductions in electricity consumption during peak time. In particular, electricity usage by the commercial sector (office buildings, etc.) has increased drastically in recent years, contributing to the rise in peak demand. Each and every member of the business community needs to assume responsibility and make reductions in this area a priority. Household electricity consumption has also continued to rise over the past ten years. It is therefore necessary to take this opportunity to promote energy conservation in the household by improving the efficiency of refrigerators and air conditioners and by taking steps such as replacement of incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. Furthermore, it is critical to formulate policies that will help to continue this summer’s electricity saving campaign into the next year and beyond, realizing genuine implementation of energy conservation. Such conservation should not end with voluntary efforts, but should include such bold reforms as: a reconsideration of the current electricity billing system wherein greater usage results in lower prices; raising the cost of electricity during peak hours; and rewarding reductions in use with discounts from one year to the next. It is absolutely vital to construct a new system that will in the long-term control and reign in demand itself.
A step towards realizing an low carbon society
The shut down of TEPCO’s nuclear power plants and the ensuing talk of electricity shortages have brought into relief the dangers of reliance on nuclear power and the fundamental problem of excessive energy consumption. These issues will not be solved by simply holding out through this summer, nor by addressing the problems in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone. Moreover, the challenges presented by climate change will require reductions in energy consumption throughout the country, not just in the areas supplied by TEPCO. We must take advantage of this “opportunity” to formulate climate change prevention policies that do not rely on nuclear power, but rather encourage energy conservation at the individual level and promotion of renewable energy. It is up to us to turn this energy crisis into an energy crusade, with the goal of achieving a society rooted in energy conservation.