For the first time in 37 years, the Japanese government ordered large customers to restrict electricity usage if they are in Tohoku Electric Power Co. Inc.’s or Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO’s) service territories, effective July 1. With the exception of essential services and powering cleanup operations at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, large energy users are to cut consumption 15% below last summer’s levels.

Both power companies lost significant generating capacity as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in March. Among the facilities affected by the natural disaster was the Sendai Thermal Power Station, the subject of the April POWER cover story.

Asahi.com reported that the reduction goal was met on the first day of implementation. Demand was about 15% lower than last year in TEPCO’s service territory and about 22% lower in Tohoku Electric’s territory. Residential and smaller business customers are also being asked to conserve, but the reduction is not mandatory for them.

Employers are taking a variety of measures to comply that include shifting work hours earlier in the day, shutting down air conditioning at 6 p.m., turning off unnecessary lighting, and shifting work to weekends.

Though they are not under government orders to limit demand, Kansai Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co. also asked customers to conserve energy, according to Asahi.com.

Meanwhile, challenges continue to mount at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The Japan Times reported on Monday that the plant "briefly stopped cooling reactor 5 on Sunday to replace a damaged seawater hose" that was spotted by a worker on patrol. If the hose hadn’t been fixed, "the reactor would have reached boiling point about 22 hours later, the utility said. That would cause all its water to evaporate, exposing the rods and causing another core meltdown."

On May 29, the same unit "nearly started boiling after a seawater pump broke overnight and its replacement was delayed until daylight," according to the Times.

For different reasons, the south of India is facing power shortages and restrictions this summer. The Business Standard reports that the Orissa state government has asked state-run NTPC to completely shut down the 2,000-MW stage-II of Talcher Super Thermal Power Station, because of concerns over fly ash disposal. NTPC had already shut down two 500-MW units at the site in response to a closure notice from the Orissa State Pollution Control Board on June 28. The plant has been warned about the need to better-manage fly ash emissions "for the past two to three years."

The southern Indian states affected by the shutdown already suffer from electricity shortages, and the shutdown of Talcher, plus two other units being shut down for maintenance, have made the situation worse. The Times of India reported on Tuesday that there have been unscheduled power cuts for 10 to 30 minutes, mostly in rural areas.

Sources: The Denki Shimbun, Asahi.com, Mainichi Daily News, Business Standard, The Japan Times, The Times of India, POWER