Japan Earthquake: TEPCO Plans Rolling Power Outages

10 million kilowatt shortfall expected Monday

2 min read
Japan Earthquake: TEPCO Plans Rolling Power Outages

Starting Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Japan’s largest electric utility, and Tohoku Electric Power Company, based in Sendai, plan to introduce rolling power cuts throughout their areas of coverage. TEPCO supplies electricity to Tokyo and seven surrounding prefectures with relatively large populations, including Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba. The measure is necessary after several of the companies’ nuclear power plants in northeastern Japan were damaged or shut down by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Friday and the tsunami that struck soon afterward.

Yukio Edano, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said in a press conference Sunday evening that TEPCO estimates a shortfall of roughly 10 million kilowatts when Japanese industry and businesses go back to work on Monday. Under normal conditions, the company generates some 41 million kilowatts..

TEPCO plans to divide its region of coverage into five areas and alternately cut power to each area for 3 hours. “This is to avoid unexpected and sudden outages” when demand rises above TEPCO’s reduced capacity, said Edano. The company will publish a schedule of the planned outages on its website later.

Earlier in the day Banri Kaieda, minister of economy, trade, and industry, said he and Prime Minister Naoto Kan had met with the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Nippon Keidanren) and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss ways industry and businesses could reduce electricity demand. Both men also urged Japanese citizens to make every effort to reduce use of electricity in their homes. But a meeting with TEPCO and Tohoku Power Company made it clear such measures would not be sufficient to bridge the demand gap.

Hopes that power companies in western Japan would be able to make up the shortfall also seem dismal in the short term. These companies generate power at 60 Hz, but eastern Japan uses 50 Hz. “So it will be difficult for them to help,” said Edano.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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