Chubu Electric eyes April rate hike

Kyodo

Chubu Electric Power Co. is considering raising household electricity rates 5 to 8 percent next April to offset losses caused by the shutdown of its Hamaoka nuclear plant, sources said Saturday.

The utility, which serves Nagoya and other parts of central Japan, has been unable to bring the Hamaoka plant back online, which has forced it to rely on thermal power generation. The subsequent surge in fuel costs, exacerbated by the government’s campaign to weaken the yen under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has worsened its financial position.

The Hamaoka plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, was shut down in May 2011 at the request of the government following the triple core meltdowns two months earlier at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which was too poorly equipped to defend against the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered the crisis.

The company is expected to report its third consecutive group net loss for the current business year and is planning to launch a round of pay cuts in April 2014.

Six of the nine utilities with nuclear reactors have already decided to raise rates. The latest move signals that business conditions are tightening even for utilities less dependent on atomic power.

On Sunday, Tohoku Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Hokkaido Electric Power Co. raised household electricity prices by an average of 8.94 percent, 7.80 percent and 7.73 percent, respectively.

They join Tokyo Electric Power, Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., which have already hiked rates.