Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), Kansai Electric Power, Chubu Electric Power, and Hokuriku Electric Power have announced plans to grant access to each other’s backup power reserves to better handle dips in renewable energy output and other non-emergency situations. A formal announcement is expected at the start of 2018, with the four utilities aiming to have the framework in place by fiscal 2020.
Each utility sets aside fossil-fuel power generation capacity equal to about 7 per cent of total demand as standby electricity. A system already exists whereby utilities share surplus electricity across regions for emergencies such as natural disasters. This agreement broadens this to non-emergencies so as to compensate for sharp drops in solar and wind power output due to weather conditions.
Together, the four utilities control 59 per cent of Japan’s power market. They are approaching Tohoku Electric Power and other utilities about joining the arrangement.
Tepco estimates that if all of Japan’s regional utilities except Okinawa Electric Power, serving the southernmost prefecture of the country, annual costs would be cut by over $1 billion.
The Japanese Government has said that it plans to have renewable energy account for 22-24 per cent of Japan’s overall power output in fiscal 2030, up from about 15 per cent in fiscal 2016.