Campaigning parties must present specific measures to boost power supply

Many people are increasingly concerned about how long the power crunch will continue amid the scorching heat. In their debates for the House of Councillors election, political parties are urged to present concrete measures to ensure a stable supply of electricity.

In late June, the government issued a power crunch advisory for the first time in the service area of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. This step was taken as electricity demand was expected to surge due to unseasonably hot weather. Although the government got through the situation by requesting households and businesses to conserve electricity, the supply-demand balance is likely to remain precarious in the future.

There is a limit to what the government can do to ensure a supply-demand balance if it only relies on saving power. It is essential to increase the supply capacity, but the assertions of the political parties do not convey a sense of urgency.

The parties have been generally in agreement on expanding renewable energy sources, such as solar power, in order to strike a balance between decarbonization and ensuring the supply of electricity.

However, renewable energy is not the key to maintaining a stable power supply because electricity generation from renewable energy sources is affected by the weather and the seasons. The supply-demand situation is projected to become even tighter this winter when solar power generation will decline.

The Liberal Democratic Party has revised its previous policy of reducing the nation’s dependence on nuclear power as much as possible and now states in its election pledge that the party will seek the maximum use of nuclear power generated at plants that have been confirmed to be safe. The LDP has made its stance to promote the restart of nuclear reactors clearer than before.

Komeito, the LDP’s ruling coalition partner, has also put forth a policy of striving to restart nuclear reactors by obtaining public understanding and cooperation. Among the opposition parties, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People have accepted the restart of nuclear reactors that have been confirmed to be safe.

However, it is unclear how these parties will support the restart of the reactors.

Of the 27 reactors for which power companies have applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for safety screenings since the Great East Japan Earthquake, firms have managed to resume operations at least once for only 10 units. Behind this slow progress is deep-rooted public distrust of nuclear power.

Efforts should be made to gain widespread understanding of the need for nuclear power.

Another reason for the slow progress is the NRA’s prolonged safety screenings. It is hoped that the parties will discuss ways to speed up the process.

In contrast, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has been vague about its stance regarding the restart of nuclear reactors, while saying it does not approve of the construction of new reactors. The Social Democratic Party has called for moving away from the use of nuclear power, and the Japanese Communist Party has called for nuclear power to be abolished immediately.

If these parties reject the restart of nuclear reactors, they must devise effective alternative measures to achieve a stable electricity supply without nuclear power.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made energy security even more important. How will resource-poor Japan cope with this situation? It is hoped that discussions on energy security will deepen during campaigning for the upper house election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2022)