Friday, July 1, 2011

Japan imposes energy limits amid power crunch

Japan began imposing energy restrictions on companies, shopping malls and other major electricity users Friday to cope with power shortages caused by the loss of a tsunami-hit nuclear power plant.

Big factories, office buildings, universities and department stores in the Tokyo area must use 15 per cent less electricity than a year ago. Electricity is in short supply due to the shutdown of the Fukushima Daiichi plant hit by the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The restrictions on power use from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays last until Sept. 22, and violators face fines of up to one million yen ($12,000). The limit does not apply to households, but the government has urged them to conserve energy.

"We ask their co-operation so that we can all overcome the energy crunch," trade ministry official Satoshi Koyanagi said. The government has already implemented energy-saving measures such as disabling extra elevators and turning off lights.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. expects to supply 56.8 million kilowatts for Tokyo and its vicinity in July, short of an estimated demand of 60 million kilowatts. The company said its estimated supply would be slightly less in August.

To cope with the shortage, Sony Corp. said it would turn off air conditioning at its Tokyo headquarters after 6 p.m. It also is starting the business day an hour earlier at 8:30 a.m., spokesman Atsuo Omagari said.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange turned off its electronic price ticker and will not receive visitors until the end of September.

"We are turning off all lights and air conditioning in the visitors' areas," said Yukari Hozumi, a stock exchange spokeswoman. (read more)