The Japanese government may put a cap on industrial users' power consumption during peak hours this summer to avoid massive blackouts in Tokyo Electric Power's service areas, a trade ministry official said on Tuesday.
A magnitude 9.0 quake on March 11 took out 14,903 megawatts of Tokyo Electric's nuclear and thermal generating capacity, or 23 percent of the total including hydro plants, and it has imposed rolling power blackouts to most areas it covers for the first time in its 60-year history.
Tokyo Electric on Friday said it expected its power supply capacity for the summer to reach 46,500 MW, excluding hydro power using pumped water, or nearly 10,000 MW short of projected peak demand even taking into account users' efforts to conserve power.
Some industry groups have floated the idea of limiting overall power usage during specified periods in return for assurances of continuous power supplies, but the trade ministry official said such a plan would not work if it resulted in concentrated power consumption during peak hours of the day.
Power usage typically peaks between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. during the summer. A regulation limiting overall usage during the peak hours would be an option but could simply end up shifting the peak period, for example, to 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"What we need to do is clear: shift peak usage and limit overall power consumption," he said. "That would help level out consumption during the day. Our goal is a combination of these strategies that will help to avoid rolling blackouts in the summer, which we will keep in reserve as a safety net."