Tepco slammed over rate hike plan at public hearing

JIJI

Tokyo Electric Power Co. came under a fresh barrage of criticism over its plan to raise household rates at a public hearing Saturday in Saitama.

One attendee said that since Tepco is about to receive a ¥1 trillion injection of taxpayer money, the public has every right to demand it drastically cut costs before raising electricity charges.

Another urged the government to swiftly provide financial assistance to the debt-plagued utility in hopes it might at least reduce the planned rate hike, blaming Tepco’s current financial woes on the state for its aggressive promotion of nuclear power.

The hearing, organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, gave five Tepco customers and four energy experts the chance to exchange opinions. A similar event was held in Tokyo on Thursday.

Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa, who also attended the hearing, underlined the company’s determination to streamline operations to win support for the rate increase plan.

He said the utility would make further efforts to lower its fuel costs for thermal power generation, as they have surged while all of Tepco’s reactors have been gradually shut down amid the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tepco officially submitted a proposal to hike household power rates by 10.28 percent on average to METI in May.

The ministry’s chief, Yukio Edano, intends to make a decision as early as July on whether to approve the plan, after taking into consideration the views of Tepco’s household customers and a panel of experts currently assessing the company’s costs.