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Japanese utilities have resorted to starting up old crude oil- and fuel oil-fired power plants and ramping up the capacity of already operating oil-powered facilities as utilities try to cope with record demand amid a two-week heat wave that has killed more than 80 people across the country.
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Japan switched off most of its nuclear power plants to have operators inspect and upgrade them. At present, just six out of 40 available nuclear reactors are operational in the country.
The heat wave of the past two weeks has made households and businesses crank up air conditioning, and demand for electricity is on the rise and power prices have hit record highs. To cope with the surge in electricity demand, utilities are returning to the use of mothballed fossil fuel-fired power plants that have been placed on standby, or are ramping up the capacity at operational fossil fuel plants.
Kansai Electric Power, a utility operating in the western industrialized area which was also the hardest hit by the heat wave, has started up two old oil-fired plants with a total capacity of 1.2 gigawatts (GW), a spokesman for the company told Reuters on Friday.
Japan’s biggest electricity provider and the operator of the former Fukushima nuclear power plant—Tokyo Electric Power—has been running its oil, coal, and gas power plants at rates higher than their typical maximum capacity, a Tokyo Electric Power spokesman told Reuters.
The heat wave pushed electricity prices in the Kansai region to the highest on record this week.
The heat wave could roll on into August, which is typically the hottest month in Japan, and utilities see electricity demand this month and next possibly exceeding earlier estimates.
“Our old thermal power plants are working hard. We must get our act together to keep them well maintained,” Satoru Katsuno, president at Japan’s third-largest utility, Chubu Electric Power, said at the end of last week.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.