Hashimoto immediately began implementing power-saving steps on Monday afternoon following a meeting with the heads of prefectural government departments earlier in the day.
His about-face comes in the wake of criticism from bureaucrats and amid the governor’s ongoing battle against the Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO). The utility had asked Hashimoto to request Osaka businesses to cut power consumption over the peak summer months by 15%, which he had repeatedly refused to accede to.
“People advocating continued power-saving measures while getting KEPCO to buy excess electricity from Ennet Corp. and raise power supply capabilities were very constructive,” Hashimoto said, explaining the change in his stance.
Ennet is an energy company backed by corporations including Osaka Gas Co. Osaka Prefectural Government Office is powered by Ennet, which Hashimoto argued made any power-saving measures within the building “meaningless.”
Electric companies across Japan are urging reduced power consumption over the summer in the wake of increased risk of shortages, following the March 11 disasters that have wreaked havoc with the country’s power supply notably through the radiation leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, but also due to the closure of other plants deemed to be risky. Major electricity consumers have since July 1 been obliged to cut electricity use by 15% compared to last year or face fines of up to 1 million yen (about $12,000) for each violation.
KEPCO has repeatedly asked Hashimoto to request Osaka businesses cut power use by 15%, but the governor has refused. He remains at odds with KEPCO over this issue.
Osaka leaders embroiled in heated power struggle over electricity issue
OSAKA (majirox news)- Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto and Osaka Mayor Kunio Hiramatsu are getting hot under the collar amid a scorching power struggle centering on summer air conditioning and how it should be fueled.
Fiery Hashimoto has inflamed anti-nuclear sentiment by refusing a request from the Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) to voluntarily reduce electricity consumption over the peak summer months, and this week fired up a campaign encouraging people to turn off their air conditioners so nuclear reactors could be extinguished.
Refusing to be burned, Hiramatsu – whose position is also complicated by the City of Osaka being KEPCO’s major shareholder – has called Hashimoto’s statements “frightening,” and adds that cutting off coolers in the steaming heat of Osaka’s summer is a health hazard.
On June 30, Hashimoto announced that he intends to campaign against reduced power consumption and not cooperate with KEPCO’s request to ask industry and small and medium sized businesses to cut power consumption by 15% over the peak summer months. Hashimoto has accused KEPCO of shady business practices and using the request for a 15% cut as a threat to allow it to continue to rely on nuclear power generation, which he opposes.
Despite his opposition to asking businesses to reduce their electricity use, Hashimoto has actively urged homes and offices to refrain from using air conditioning. He has come out with the slogan “Turn off air conditioning in summer to turn off nuclear reactors.”
Hashimoto has asked Hiramatsu to use the city’s position as KEPCO’s main shareholder to propose to the utility that it move away from using nuclear power. But during the June 29 KEPCO shareholders’ annual general meeting, the mayor (Hiramatsu) did not propose ending nuclear power generation. Instead, Hiramatsu only expressed the opinion that the municipal government wants reactors to eventually be shut down. Hashimoto responded by launching his campaign against requesting reduced electricity consumption.
Meanwhile, Hiramatsu has maintained a basic stance of working with KEPCO, though he has formally asked the utility to disclose information about its operations. He has continued to pledge cooperation with KEPCO’s request for the 15% power consumption reduction and urged residents to exercise restraint in electricity use while continuing to seek an explanation from KEPCO about the need for using less power for purposes such as air conditioning.
Although Hiramatsu shares the governor’s opposition to nuclear power generation, he also appears likely to stand by KEPCO’s policies to counter possible power shortages without exercising the city’s position as major shareholder to force action on the utility.
“Pulling out your trump card doesn’t always produce the pleasantest of results,” Hiramatsu told the media. “Statements like the governor is making (about turning off air conditioners) are frightening. Considering it could be hazardous to the health to try and bear the heat, these aren’t things that should be said lightly.”