Japan braces for power crunch as temperatures climb, rainy season ends

AFP

Japan braced for a possible power crunch on Monday as temperatures climbed across the country and the rainy season ended in the Tokyo area at its earliest point since 1951, raising fears of a long, hot summer amid fuel price rises.

The Japanese government warned that electric power supplies in the Tokyo area will be strained on Monday as scorching heat batters the area with record temperatures. Officials called for power conservation, especially in the afternoon.

Surging electrical prices because of soaring fuel costs after Russia's invasion of Ukraine are making life hard for Japanese consumers less than two weeks before an election for the upper house of parliament. A power shortage could batter the fortunes of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), already under fire for how it has handled higher consumer prices.

"We encourage people to cut back on energy use to a reasonable degree, such as by turning off lights that aren't being used, while also using air conditioners during particularly hot hours and exercising caution so as not to get heat stroke," deputy chief cabinet secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a news conference.

In Tokyo and eight nearby prefectures in eastern Japan, excess generating capacity will drop to as low as 3.7 per cent from about 4:30 to 5:00 pm on Monday (0730-0800 GMT), according to estimates released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on Sunday. A level of 3 per cent is considered the minimum required for a stable power supply. 

As of 11:00 am, temperatures in downtown Tokyo had hit 34.1°C and those in Kiryu, slightly northeast of the capital, were at 36.3°C.

Japan Meteorological Agency said on Monday the annual rainy season had ended in much of Japan, including the Tokyo metropolitan area, the earliest point since recordkeeping of that data began in 1951.

The end of the rainy season signals the advent of summer heat in Japan. In 2018, the rainy season ended on June 29, ushering in an extremely hot summer with several heat waves that hospitalized thousands.

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