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Japan's power shortage to last

business Updated: Mar 29, 2011 21:27 IST
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The term 'rolling blackouts' has become shorthand for noting one way Japan is trying to cope with its national calamity.

Shorthand should not be confused with short term.

Utility experts and economists say it will take many months, possibly into next year, to get anywhere close to restoring full power.

The places most affected are not only in the earthquake-ravaged area but also in the economically crucial region closer to Tokyo, which is having to ration power because of the big chunk of the nation's electrical generating capacity that was knocked out by the quake or washed away by the tsunami.

Besides the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, three other nuclear plants, six coal-fired plants and 11 oil-fired power plants were initially shut down, according to PFC Energy, an international consulting firm.

By some measures, as much as 20% of the total generating capacity of the region's dominant utility, the Tokyo Electric Power Company - or an estimated 11% of Japan's total power - is out of service.

Until all the lost or suspended generating capacity is replaced, economists say, factories will operate at reduced levels, untold numbers of cars and other products will go unbuilt and legions of shoppers will cut back their buying.

Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at JPMorgan Securities Japan, estimates that the country's gross domestic product will shrink in the second quarter by about 3% on an annualised basis, with about half of that decline resulting from the power shortage.

"We hadn't initially expected the quake to impact the national economy to this degree," said Kanno said.