Few countries have been dealt such a tragic combination of natural and manmade disasters as Japan. The part of the disaster that I understand is the shortage of electricity. I wrote a book, Saving Electricity in a Hurry, in 2005 while working at the International Energy Agency.1 In the book, I explained the measures that a government must take in order to quickly reduce electricity demand while protecting the economy.

 

Fotolia_17189930_L© Paylessimages — Fotolia.com

Ironically, I described a 2003 electricity shortage in Tokyo, when Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was forced to switch off most of its nuclear power plants. A cool summer and just enough conservation got Tokyo through the summer without a blackout. But the present crisis is much, much, worse and I simply don't know what will happen; there are too many unknowns on both the supply and demand sides to confidently predict the outcome during the next 18 months. I can imagine a scenario of Japan just squeaking through with a combination of massive conservation, a cool summer, and no further losses on the generation side. Unfortunately, I can more easily imagine other scenarios where one or all of these three don't deliver. Tokyo won't be a happy place if that happens.

 

TEPCO’s customers haven’t been sitting on their hands; they have already cut electricity demand by roughly 25%. This is a huge drop but still not enough to confidently weather the summer peak period without blackouts.2

 

To date, many of the conservation programs have been poorly organized and badly implemented. Homes and businesses have cut electricity use as a result of civic duty and many factories have not restarted owing to unreliable power. Perhaps coordination will improve as the government and industrial associations establish guidelines. One obstacle is the widespread distrust of TEPCO; it is not a credible institution to organize and operate a massive conservation campaign. Lack of faith in the utility is a common problem in nearly all electricity crises, not just in Japan.

 

What should Tokyo do to further reduce electricity use? The government must recognize that the power shortage is a national emergency and create an independent entity, equipped with wide powers, to organize and manage the conservation campaign. (This is what Brazil did and it successfully cut power use 20% in two months.)

 

- Alan Meier

 

1. This book can be downloaded for free at www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2005/savingElec.pdf.
2. You can watch this 50 Gigawatt balancing act in real-time at www.tepco.co.jp.cache.yimg.jp/en/forecast/html/index-e.html.

Views: 40

Tags: disaster, electricity, tokyo

Comment

You need to be a member of Home Energy Pros to add comments!

Join Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro (sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy,) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.

Latest Activity

Tom Mallard replied to Hal Skinner's discussion Rooftop A/C units and exposed ductwork in the group Radiant Control Coatings
"Right, that reinforces my understanding of how it works, I was after what to plug in for values in…"
5 hours ago
Hal Skinner replied to Hal Skinner's discussion Rooftop A/C units and exposed ductwork in the group Radiant Control Coatings
"Products like these dont have an R-rating. You still have to have the R-rated insulation to meet…"
6 hours ago
Graham Irwin replied to Tom Conlon's discussion Whole House Fans - Love 'Em or Not?
"Thanks for the input. The next question to ask is "how much cooling power is delivered in each…"
7 hours ago
Brandon Walton commented on Brandon Walton's blog post 12 Things Every Home Performance Contractor Should Have on Their Work Truck
"Totally off topic William, but yeah could use a bit more I suppose "
7 hours ago
William H Nickerson commented on Brandon Walton's blog post 12 Things Every Home Performance Contractor Should Have on Their Work Truck
"One more thing...you need a little more bend in that cap"
8 hours ago
Tom Mallard replied to Hal Skinner's discussion Rooftop A/C units and exposed ductwork in the group Radiant Control Coatings
"Sounds like the perfect, thin insulator adding enough thermal inertia to separate two masses and/or…"
8 hours ago
Hal Skinner replied to Hal Skinner's discussion Rooftop A/C units and exposed ductwork in the group Radiant Control Coatings
"OK Tom, I think I am on the last questionow,,,I think.  LOL Going under the building and…"
10 hours ago
Hal Skinner replied to Hal Skinner's discussion Rooftop A/C units and exposed ductwork in the group Radiant Control Coatings
"Tom, sorry for having to break this up but my responses I guess are too long. You talking about the…"
10 hours ago
Hal Skinner replied to Hal Skinner's discussion Rooftop A/C units and exposed ductwork in the group Radiant Control Coatings
" "
12 hours ago
Hal Skinner replied to Hal Skinner's discussion Rooftop A/C units and exposed ductwork in the group Radiant Control Coatings
"I guess I got too mlong winded ther, it cut me off. 1.  Spray the coating on the ducts, plenum…"
12 hours ago
Kurt Shafer replied to Tom Conlon's discussion Whole House Fans - Love 'Em or Not?
"Jan, Here are some facts. the 30 inch fan from Home Depot (not one I would recommend) is rated at…"
12 hours ago
Hal Skinner replied to Hal Skinner's discussion Rooftop A/C units and exposed ductwork in the group Radiant Control Coatings
"Hi Tom. It looks like I will have to start off most of my answers to questions with this…"
12 hours ago

© 2014   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service