Japan begins 3-month energy-saving period to conserve electricity

Japanese households and businesses on Friday entered a three-month period to conserve electricity to prevent a power crunch amid a record-breaking heat wave, marking the first time in seven years that the government has made such a request.
Unusually hot weather in June has kept power demand extremely high, with supply expected to remain tight throughout the summer due to persistent heat and infrastructure issues.
While a numerical target has not been set for the period through September, the government is calling for people to reduce energy consumption without disrupting daily life and economic activities.
The Japanese archipelago has endured record-high temperatures over the past few days with the mercury reaching 35 C and above in many areas and the hot weather expected to continue.
The mercury in central Tokyo reached 37.0 C in the morning, surpassing the country's "extreme heat" threshold of 35 C for the seventh consecutive day.
In the central Japan prefecture of Aichi, the temperature climbed to 38.2 C at one point in the city of Toyota.
Kei Iida, 33, who runs a small hotel with six guest rooms in the neighboring city of Okazaki, said he has asked his guests to turn off the air conditioners when they leave their rooms.
Due to the heightened risk of heatstroke, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is calling on people to continue use of air conditioners and instead save electricity via measures such as turning off unnecessary lights.
A government spokesman also urged the people to take off face masks outdoors to prevent heatstroke as many in the country have continued wearing them since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
"We are asking the public to take off the masks except for when talking at a short distance," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara told a regular news conference.
Energy-saving measures are especially encouraged between 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., when solar power generation declines.
The ministry issued a power usage warning for four consecutive days from Monday in Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc's service area as sweltering temperatures in the Japanese capital and surrounding areas were expected to result in pressure on the system.
The warning was lifted for Friday as concern over a power crunch eased, but the risk of an electricity shortage remains due to issues such as aging thermal power plants.
On Thursday, the Nakoso coal- and oil-fired power plant in Fukushima Prefecture was temporarily halted due to a technical problem. It partially resumed operation the same day.
Some electricity suppliers will begin a point system in July to reward households that take energy-saving measures. The government has also decided to provide power-saving points in August worth 2,000 yen to households if they participate.
According to the industry ministry, the trouble of procuring fuel for thermal power generation is increasing due to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, with concerns over a power crunch likely to intensify in winter when solar power generation declines.
The disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to the suspension of many of the country's reactors, with the government consistently calling for energy-saving measures to be taken until 2015.
The government stopped making the requests from 2016 after some nuclear plants resumed operation.

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