• Kyodo


Hokkaido Electric Power Co. on Thursday became the first utility to seek its second rate hike since March 2011, applying for permission to charge households around 17 percent more starting this fall.

In its application to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the utility cited the cost of buying fossil fuels to offset the loss of atomic power caused by the Fukushima disaster as the reason for the rate hike.

The utility is the first to ask for a second rate increase since the March 2011 mega-quake and tsunami triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The industry ministry will convene a panel to discuss whether the hike is reasonable, but the ministry thinks the company hasn’t made enough effort to improve its business and may urge it to trim the size of the hike, the sources said.

Hokkaido Electric, which raised household electricity rates 7.7 percent last year, plans to hike corporate rates, which doesn’t need government approval, by over 20 percent.

The regional utility owns the three reactors at the Tomari nuclear complex, but none have been online since the No. 3 reactor was taken offline for a regular checkup in May 2012.

The new safety regime drafted after the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant froze atomic power generation nationwide.