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Sony eyes two week summer break to save energy

TOKYO, Apr 14 – Sony said Thursday it was considering having all its employees in Japan take two-week summer vacations to save energy, amid power shortages in the aftermath of the March 11 disasters.

By shutting down offices, air conditioners, elevators, and other facilities, the electronics giant believes it could save up to 25 percent of the power it normally consumes during the peak summer months, said a Sony spokesman.

"We hope efforts like this will significantly reduce our power consumption," he said.

The decision, if made official, would affect 16,000 Japan-based workers, he said, adding that many of its factories are run by subsidiaries and might continue normal operations.

The government is set to order major firms to cut their power consumption by 25 percent this summer, when power use peaks in part due to air conditioner use, as the region served by Tokyo Electric Power faces shortages of at least 20 percent of demand.

The 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami battered the northeast coast on March 11, prompting 11 of Japan\’s 55 nuclear reactors to shut down automatically and knocking out cooling systems at TEPCO\’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Three reactors were already idle at the world\’s largest nuclear power plant at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa on Japan\’s western coast due to a 2007 earthquake, and the recent disaster also damaged several thermal power plants.

Sony\’s summer leave might be broken into a series of off-duty days, rather than a one-time extended vacation, the spokesman added.

The Japanese giant is also considering bringing its normal business hours forward from the usual 9:00 am or 9:30 am start to 8:00 am, enabling offices to close earlier, he said.

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Sony may also open its offices at weekends and close on normal business days, he said.

Among many energy-saving schemes, major manufacturers have discussed taking turns to close their factories to save electricity.

Analysts have warned of the likely slowdown of the economy through this summer, as manufacturers are forced to limit production due to the power shortfall.

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