TOKYO (Reuters) - Western Japan will see normal to hotter weather from June to August, the country's weather forecaster said on Thursday, boosting demand for power at a time when the area's users are being urged to cut consumption as nuclear power plants lay idle.
Power demand is in focus as nuclear power generation has fallen gradually to zero since last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, 240 km north of Tokyo, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The risk has forced the government to review its energy policy and nuclear safety guidelines.
The rest of the country will see mostly average weather for the period, the Japan Meteorological Agency also said on Thursday in its three-month forecast, issued monthly.
Japan's electricity demand usually peaks in summer due to air conditioning use.
All of the country's 50 nuclear reactors are offline for maintenance checks, and with the public wary of restarts due to safety concerns, the gap is being met by firing up costly fossil fuel facilities and through energy-saving steps.
The government last week asked for at least 15 percent power cuts in Osaka and surrounding areas this summer from 2010 levels, and by a lesser extent in other regions in the west to cope with shortages, but stopped short of the mandatory cuts seen on large users in the east last year.
Osaka-based Kansai Electric Power Co is the most nuclear reliant utility in Japan.
The summer of 2010 was unusually hot, with northern and eastern Japan both marking the highest temperatures on average between June and August since 1946.
Nationwide power demand peaked at 906.4 billion kilowatt hours in the year to March 2011, up 5.6 percent from 2009/2010, before falling 5.1 percent year-on-year in 2011/2012, data from Japan's 10 regional power utilities show.
The following table gives the temperature forecast for the coming months in terms of the percentage below average, average or above average (previous forecasts in parentheses):
(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)