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News Navigator: Can Japan generate enough electricity during a heat wave?

Air conditioners are seen on display at Bic Camera's Yurakucho store in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on July 23, 2018. (Mainichi)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about Japan's electricity supply, and worries about a power shortage amid the deadly heat wave.

Question: Is electricity use increasing since air conditioners are left running in this heat?

Answer: All of the electric power companies except those in Hokkaido, the Tohoku region in northern Japan, and Okinawa Prefecture have recorded the largest peak period electricity usage since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) observed a maximum peak of 56.53 million kilowatts from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on July 23. Power use in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, largely exceeded the maximum consumption of 53.83 million kilowatts seen in August 2017, as temperatures reached a record-breaking 41.1 degrees Celsius.

Q: Is there enough electricity?

A: TEPCO's supply capacity was 60.91 million kilowatts on July 23. A system has been developed allowing companies to send electricity to each other in case of power shortages, and the Japanese government explained that "a sufficient electricity supply has been ensured."

Q: Weren't they asking people to save electricity before?

A: Nuclear power plants across the nation were shut down after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and people were asked to save electricity until the winter of 2015-2016 due to power shortage concerns. Energy-saving measures were increasingly adopted, while electric power companies enhanced their supply capacity.

Q: In what ways?

A: Energy-saving habits consolidated around the "Cool-Biz" light summer business attire campaign and related efforts to increase air conditioner temperature settings. Before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, maximum electric power consumption reached as high as 64.3 million kilowatts, but demand has since dropped. Meanwhile, nine reactors were reactivated at nuclear power plants, and there was progress in solar power, which has become capable of generating electricity equal to that of five nuclear reactors in the 2016 fiscal year -- nearly 10 fold compared to fiscal 2011.

A: I am relieved to hear that we have enough electricity.

Q: The government is calling on people to "use air conditioners to prevent heatstroke as a top priority." It is important to save electricity, but we must first be careful not to harm our health.

(Answers by Takayuki Hakamada, Business News Department)

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