TEPCO’s Power Rate Hike Plan Draws Public Opposition

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An electricity bill

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A plan by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to raise household rates by 17.6 pct on average drew public opposition at a hearing held at the Japanese industry ministry on Thursday.

One participant urged the company to cut costs further, saying that wages for TEPCO workers should be lowered to average levels in the country.

TEPCO was also criticized for forcing consumers to pay costs related to its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is unlikely to be able to restart operations anytime soon.

Momoko Nagasaki, president of TEPCO Energy Partner Inc., the power retail unit of TEPCO, said that TEPCO’s finances have deteriorated due to surging fuel prices. “It’s difficult to overcome the situation by our efforts alone,” she said.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Nagasaki said TEPCO will make further efforts to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in a bid to curb electricity rates as much as possible.

TEPCO has applied for government approval to raise its household electricity rates on June 1, its first increase since September 2012, when rates were raised in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.

It initially sought to raise rates by 29.3 pct, but later changed the plan in response to falling fuel prices. The monthly bill for a standard household using 260 kilowatt-hours per month is estimated to rise by ¥1,558 to ¥10,684, though ¥1,053 lower than the initial plan.

The hearing was part of the process of screening applications for rate increases under the electricity business law.

The ministry will scrutinize TEPCO’s cost-cutting efforts and hold talks with the Consumer Affairs Agency before deciding whether to approve the company’s plan.