Tokyo Electric Power Co’s are planning a joint venture with Nippon Steel Corp to test start a new combined-cycle gas-fired unit in April and help Japan’s biggest utility avoid a power shortage next summer.

The Kimitsu Cooperative Thermal Power Co plans to supply Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, half the power generated from its 152.9 MW No.6 unit, which uses gas from a neighbouring Nippon Steel plant, a company official said.

Kimitsu aims to start the unit’s commercial operations at the end of June, the official said, and Tepco said it expects to secure an extra 2700 MW of power by August from the unit as well as other fossil-fuel plants and emergency gas turbines.

Tepco is keen to boost its power supply after two of its three nuclear power stations were shut in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami.

There are two reactors online at the third power station, with a combined capacity of 2456 MW. The last reactor is due to enter planned maintenance on March 10 next year, leaving none operational unless the company is allowed to restart them.

Tepco avoided rolling blackouts this summer, helped by two more reactors that remained online until Aug. 6 2011 as well as mandatory power saving on large-lot users.

Tepco is expecting supply to be boosted next summer from four emergency gas turbines, with a total capacity of 1138 MW, and from a new 500-MW combined-cycle gas-fired unit in its Kawasaki plant.

It also expects extra supply from its Soma and Joban power plant joint ventures with Tohoku Electric Power Co, totalling 1130 MW.

According to a Tepco official at the Kawasaki plant Kawasaki 2-1 unit is expected to start generating power on test basis by the end of May.

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