Japanese households hope to beat heat as summer looms

Thu May 26, 2011 4:06am EDT
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By Chiaki Kawase

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - As Japan heads into the sizzling summer months facing a severe power shortage after the massive March earthquake and tsunami, individual families are looking for new ways to cut down on electricity use and still stay cool.

Takahiro Tsukakoshi is well ahead of the game, however -- he has been living an energy-saving lifestyle for the last 12 years, using low-tech methods to boost efficiency without breaking the bank.

"Even if Japan tried to save energy in the past, the opportunity wasn't there. But it is here now," he said.

"Here is this necessity and the government has asked (for energy conservation), so people are trying really hard to save energy now. I didn't think the city would become so dark."

The March 11 quake and tsunami set off an ongoing nuclear crisis at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which has said it expects summer electricity demand in eastern Japan to be 55 million kilowatts. As yet, it has secured only 52 million kilowatts.

As a result, the Japanese government on Wednesday announced that guidelines to cut electricity use by 15 percent will take effect from July 1 and last more than two months. The 15 percent is compulsory for large users, with other firms and households asked to make voluntary cuts by the same margin.

"Regardless of being a large lot user, small lot user, or a household user, the electricity saving objective between July and September of this year will be 15% reduction compared to last year's peak," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said earlier in the month.

Businesses have been dimming their offices, many train stations have turned off escalators, and neon signs in busy downtown Tokyo districts have gone dark. Some businesses will operate factories on weekend days, when demand is lower.   Continued...