November 29, 2022

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The heatwave in Tokyo in June was the worst since 1875 as the energy supply is under pressure

The heatwave in Tokyo in June was the worst since 1875 as the energy supply is under pressure

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan experienced sweltering temperatures for a fourth consecutive day on Tuesday, as the temperature in the capital broke nearly 150 years of June records and authorities warned that power supplies were still tight enough to raise the specter of outages.

The heatwave comes less than two weeks before a national election in which prices, including the cost of electricity, are among the main issues chosen by voters in opinion polls showing the government’s waning popularity – with politicians including the governor of Tokyo urging lower electricity prices.

Temperatures in the capital reached 35.1 degrees Celsius by 1 pm local time on Tuesday (0400 GMT), after three consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius – the worst bout of hot weather in June since records began in 1875. And a heat wave isn’t about to break: The Japan Meteorological Agency has forecast a high of 36°C for Tokyo on Thursday and 35°C on Friday.

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With heatstroke alerts issued in some parts of the country on Tuesday, hospitalizations rose, with emergency services saying 76 people were hospitalized in Tokyo.

Many in the capital and elsewhere continue to flout government advice to reduce the risk of heat stroke by not wearing face masks outdoors – a legacy of more than two years of widespread mask-wearing in public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We tell people that when they are outside they can take enough distance and not talk, they should take off their masks,” Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto told a news conference.

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For the second day, authorities have asked consumers in the Tokyo area to conserve electricity to avoid a looming blackout – but in moderation.

“Obviously there are some old people who have turned off the air conditioners because we are asking people to save energy, but please – this is hot – feel free to calm down,” Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference.

Tokyo’s reserve ratio overnight (1630-1700) on Tuesday was expected to fall below 5% as of Monday evening, close to the 3% minimum that ensures stable supply, in Tokyo and eight surrounding prefectures. Standby capacity less than 3% risks power shortage and blackout.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said the outlook has improved slightly, but still calls on consumers to be energy efficient. She warned that supplies will remain tight on Wednesday.

Monday’s warning prompted government offices, including METI, to turn off some lights in the afternoon and evening, as METI halted use of 25% of the building’s elevators.

Electronics stores have taken similar steps, shutting down televisions and other goods on their sales floors that would normally be kept to lure buyers, and some Tokyo residents saying on social media that they have shut down all unused devices.

But politicians are starting to demand more steps.

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Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attended the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) meeting. (9501.T) Fuji News Network reported that shareholders later said it had called for lower prices. TEPCO supplies power to the greater Tokyo area.

Although it is expected to do well in the July 10 elections for the upper house of parliament, the ruling Kishida party is facing headwinds from higher prices, which have been exacerbated by the depreciation of the yen that has made imports more expensive.

The Kishida government’s approval of 50% came in a voter poll conducted by public broadcaster NHK on June 24-26, down from 55% last week.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the junior partner in Kishida’s coalition government, warned on Monday in his campaign speech that citizens are risking heatstroke by trying to economize on power.

“What I really want is for the government to ask the electricity companies to cut costs,” he was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying.

Economically, heat can be a double-edged sword, said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

He added, “It is said that the scorching heat boosts private consumption during the summer by increasing sales of beverages and household appliances…but excessive heat can limit consumption,” noting that people are staying indoors and vegetable prices are rising.

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Additional reporting by Sakura Murakami, Kantaro Komiya and Yuka Obayashi; Written by Eileen Lies. Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.