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Soaring demand for electricity amid bitter cold causes crunch in Japan

People in warm clothes are seen heading home in front of Tokyo Station on Jan. 12, 2021, as the first snow of the season fell in the capital. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- As the bitter cold continues across many areas of Japan, electricity demand for air conditioners and other heating equipment is surging beyond power companies' expectations.

    The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan called on people to save electricity on Jan. 12, and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said during a news conference the same day, "While using air conditioners in your everyday lives, we encourage you to efficiently use electricity."

    According to major electricity power companies, the peak rates of electricity usage across Japan on Jan. 12 (preliminary figures as of 2 p.m.) were 91% to 99% in nine power jurisdictions except for the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, with some areas having less than 3% remaining stored power, which is considered the minimum.

    The Organization for Cross-regional Coordination of Transmission Operators, Japan, which coordinates power supply and demand in the country, has been instructing power companies since Dec. 15 last year to accommodate each other's electricity needs to prevent power outages. A representative of the group said, "This is the first time for us to continually take such action on a large scale since our establishment in 2015." The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan and power companies are calling on the public through their websites to save energy, saying that the forecast for energy supply and demand is grim, and encouraging people to refrain from using unnecessary lights and other electrical appliances to the extent that it does not disrupt their everyday lives.

    (Japanese original by Takashi Yamashita, Integrated Digital News Center, and Shiho Fujibuchi, Business News Department)

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