The Japanese government has warned residents of Tokyo that a massive blackout may occur in the metropolitan region Thursday as power demand soared overnight due to freezing temperatures.

To curtail a potential blackout, the government’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has requested that Tokyo-area railway operators reduce evening train service as an emergency measure. In response, East Japan Railway Co. and Tokyo Metro Co. have agreed to cut the number of local trains in the Tokyo area from 5 p.m.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said power demand temporarily hit 33.3-million kilowatts, versus its supply capacity of 33.5-million kilowatts for Thursday between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. (Tokyo time). TEPCO added that demand was about 29-million kilowatts as of 5 p.m. and demand was well below supply during the anticipated peak time of between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

This unpredictable blackout would be in addition to the planned rolling blackouts that TEPCO has already been implementing in the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo in order to compensate for power shortages.

TEPCO’s power rationing measures will affect about 10-million households in the Tokyo area.
The minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda has called for individuals and businesses to conserve power as much as possible.

Consequently, many stores and businesses are operating at reduced capacity, with many employees being sent home.

TEPCO is expected to continue to ration electrical energy at least through April.

Meanwhile, Tohoku Electric Power Co., which provides energy to the quake-battered serving northeastern region of Japan, said it decided to forgo power rationing all day Thursday.