As a result of the quake, eastern Japan’s major power company Tepco has announced it plans to introduce rolling blackouts throughout much of the region, the first since the end of WWII, for as much as 6 hours a day and possibly lasting until next year.
The rolling blackouts will apparently take the form of daily blackouts in 3-4 hour blocks, with timing determined by a system of zones and blackouts occurring from 6AM to 10PM. Particularly unfortunate areas could see two blackouts in one day.
As there are no separate circuits, everything in these areas will be affected: medical facilities, traffic signals, trains, elevators, mobile reception, street lighting, etc.
Worse yet, the blackouts are set to continue “at least until the end of April,” with Tepco suggesting they may be even reinstated later in the summer and winter months to cope with elevated demand from cooling and heating .
However, to prevent complete national paralysis the majority of the 23 wards of central Tokyo will be completely unaffected.
The blackouts are the result of a roughly 25% shortfall in capacity at peak hours; as the western half of the country uses 60hz transmission rather than the eastern half’s 50hz, surplus cannot easily be redistributed between the two, and power storage capacity from using gravity reservoirs has already been exhausted.
With the duration and severity of the blackouts a virtual death blow to the region’s economy and quality of life, there is some understandable concern about the competency of Tepco’s handling of the affair – it already has a history of covering up nuclear accidents, evidently overstated the ability of its plants to withstand earthquakes, and seems to have no clear plan for restoring capacity.
The fact that the announcement of the zones was made only the night before the cuts were to begin has also aroused some criticism, as has the fact it was online only and initially provided information riddled with errors and inconsistencies.