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Panel seeks more rate hike cuts for power

JIJI

Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. shouldn’t hike household electricity prices as much as they plan to, a panel of the Cabinet Office’s Consumer Commission said Monday.

Kepco has applied to the government for approval of an 11.88 percent household rate hike on average and Kyushu Electric is seeking an 8.51 percent increase in April.

An expert panel of the industry ministry has adopted a draft assessment that calls on each utility to reduce the markup by about 1 point, but the Cabinet Office panel sought bigger reductions via more cuts in personnel costs and other expenses.

The Consumer Commission plans to hold a meeting Tuesday to wrap up its final opinion on the two rate hike requests. The Consumer Affairs Agency and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, affiliated with the industry ministry, will then hold talks to finalize the margins of their rate hikes.

The Cabinet Office panel said the two utilities should aim to reduce their public health insurance burden by shouldering 50 percent, the minimum level under law, of premiums, down from 55 percent eyed under the industry ministry panel’s assessment.

Power sales off 3.8%

Electricity sales by Japan’s 10 major power suppliers fell 3.8 percent from a year before to 76.105 billion kwh in February, down for the second consecutive month, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan said Monday. All of the 10 companies suffered sales drops, the first across-the-board setback in 15 months.

The decrease reflected fewer days in February than in the same month of the leap year 2012, as well as sluggish power demand for heating amid relatively high temperatures in the latest reporting month.

Electricity sales to large-lot industrial users dropped 7.4 percent to 20.410 billion kwh, down for the ninth straight month.

Sales of electricity for lighting, mainly for household use, declined 1.3 percent to 29.453 billion kwh, down for the second month in a row.

Electricity sales fell sharply at three firms — down 6.3 percent at Hokuriku Electric Power Co., 5.8 percent at Kyushu Electric Power Co. and 5.5 percent at Shikoku Electric Power Co.