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Japan expands energy-saving to western region
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) July 20, 2011

Japan said Wednesday it would expand efforts to restrict energy use to the western region to cope with lower power generation capacity amid public objections to restarting nuclear reactors.

The government will request a 10-percent cut on energy consumption for major power consumers, such as factories in the Kansai region surrounding the commercial hub of Osaka, from Monday through September 22.

However, the energy saving policy for the Kansai region will not come with fines for those who do not meet the guidelines, as is the case for restrictions in the Kanto and Tohoku regions.

The step was deemed necessary to avoid the risk of blackouts during peak summer power demand, with 18 out of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors offline over local objections to their restart after scheduled inspections.

Before March 11 Japan derived around 30 percent of its energy requirements from nuclear power.

Public anxiety about the use of nuclear power has intensified after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was damaged by the March earthquake and tsunami, triggering the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

The government had already ordered a 15 percent cut in peak electricity use among major companies in the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo, which received power from the Fukushima plant, and the northern Tohoku region, which hosted the plant.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said the government urged western Japan to save energy as much as possible.

"We ask that (the western region) to save energy although we will not set a numerical target," he told a news conference.

Kansai Electric has already asked its customers to cut power consumption by 15 percent, complaining of lowered generating capacity as it has not been able to bring nuclear reactors back online from scheduled inspections due to public fears about safety.

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