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Air conditioning on Japan bases could be nixed if power usage doesn't decline

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Air conditioning may be shut off at some U.S. bases in Japan, if energy consumption continues to exceed limits set to help alleviate the country’s energy crisis, military officials said this week.

As Tokyo temperatures soared to 97 degrees on Thursday, power use at Yokota Air Base and Yokosuka Naval Base exceeded limits set by commanders. The limits were set to help the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) avoid rolling blackouts in the wake of electricity shortages stemming from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, officials said.

If the limits are exceeded again next week, commanders could order more drastic measures than the initiatives already implemented, which include turning off street lights, escalators and televisions, officials said.

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“The decision to turn off air-conditioning units (at Yokota) will be made by (374th Airlift) Wing leadership, based on whether our power consumption goes down over the coming days,” said Yokota spokesman Capt. Raymond Geoffroy in an email to Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

A post on the Yokota Facebook page said the base had not met its goal of keeping peak power consumption at least 15 percent below last year’s peak consumption.

Non-essential buildings — excluding residential on-base housing and lodging — have already been identified for air-conditioning deactivation, but “we believe Yokota can meet its goals without turning off air conditioning if the base is ‘all in’ on this effort,” Geoffroy said.

Mike Gabiga, an energy project developer with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, said power consumption Thursday at Yokosuka was greater than the Navy was aiming for.

“Our goal is a 25 percent reduction from last year’s peak demand,” Gabiga said Friday. “This past week we exceeded that, but we are still meeting the government’s 15 percent mandate.”

Failure to meet the 25 percent reduction goal would result in more aggressive measures, Gabiga said.

“Rolling AC shutdowns is a more drastic measure,” he said, adding the base could also turn off more lights, limit use of its incineration plant and operate its dry dock at night and on weekends, when the load on the power grid would be less.

Camp Zama came close to exceeding its energy consumption threshold a few weeks ago, but was able to rally the community and get usage down, said Maj. Randall Baucom, spokesman for U.S. Army Japan at Camp Zama.

Air-conditioning units at a majority of Camp Zama offices automatically turn off at 4 p.m., and other energy conservation programs already under way there before the crises have helped the base consistently meet its energy goals, aside from the one-day spike, Baucom said Friday.

Misawa Air Base, which has a public outreach campaign modeled after the U.S. military force-protection warning system, also experienced a similar short-lived spike, officials there said.

The base went from “alpha” status to “bravo” status earlier this month, which meant the base was still below its energy limits, but above its target goal, said Misawa spokesman Tech. Sgt. Phillip Butterfield.

Serving as an “early warning” for base employees and residents, the system helped quickly get base consumption back down to acceptable levels, Butterfield said.

Elena Sugiyama contributed to this report.

reedc@pstripes.osd.mil

robsons@pstripes.osd.mil

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