No Tepco rate hike this year

Kyodo

New Tepco Chairman Fumio Sudo said the utility will not hike rates later this year even if the restart of its huge nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture is delayed.

Acknowledging that Tokyo Electric Power Co. as operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex faces “harsh opinions” over its bid to resume other reactors, Sudo told a news conference Monday, “We will make efforts at least until December” to avoid another rate hike.

Tepco raised electricity rates in 2012 for households and companies as it struggled with soaring costs stemming from the nuclear disaster that began in March 2011.

Under a new business turnaround plan approved by the government in January, Tepco is seeking to reactivate two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata in July and August to reduce the heavy expense of importing fossil fuels for thermal power generation.

It remains unclear when the plant will be brought back online, as reactors have to first clear a set of new safety requirements introduced after the Fukushima catastrophe started. Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida has also been cautious about restarting the plant.

To enhance its public relations effort in the nearby area, the utility said it will set up a branch office in Niigata by July 2015 and appoint by the end of this June a managing executive officer in charge of preparing for the branch launch.

“We aim to listen to the views of local people,” said Sudo, who took over at Tepco on Tuesday.

The utility also said it will send an executive to Japan Atomic Power Co. to support the company’s faltering electricity wholesale business.