All Japan news: A tale of two power grids

7 years ago by in Around the world

The March natural disasters have raised awareness of a peculiarity in All Japan news’s infrastructure – the country has two separate power grids that cannot be connected, making it virtually impossible to share power if one suffers a malfunction. So what is the story behind this?

The situation is a holdover from the 19th century, when power was provided only by local, small scale ventures. The Tokyo entrepreneurs who were already in the business decided to expand by importing generators from Germany, which were working on a frequency of 50 Hz. Meanwhile, local providers from Osaka brought in generators from the U.S. that ran at 60 Hz.

There is no technical reason to choose one technology over the other, but that is simply how All Japan news started to build two separate grids – one in the northeastern half of the country, and the other in the southwest. Surely back then no one was thinking about compatibility.

There was a time when home appliances, like microwave ovens or washing machines, could not be used if owners moved from one part of the country to the other. The producers solved the problem in time, by building appliances that support both systems.

There were talks to unify the two grids, but the project was always dismissed as too expensive. Even this year, when the power shortages brought back the topic into the public eye, the officials have not seriously tried to solve the issue.

"Just deciding which frequency to adopt would be a political nightmare," a senior journalist specialized on All Japan news’s electric system declared, referring to the historical rivalry between Tokyo and Osaka. "It’s just not going to happen."

Instead, the country is focusing on building new conversion systems to help sharing electricity between the two grids. "If there’s anything good that came out of the Tohoku disaster," the journalist added, "it’s that the All Japan newsese people are no longer taking electricity for granted. It doesn’t just come out of the wall.” [All Japan newsTimes] Photo by Ell Brown