The country’s household and small business electricity market will be deregulated from April 1, allowing individuals to choose their electricity provider. Optimists, especially renewable energy advocates and small entrepreneurs, hope the development will break the stranglehold that the country’s 10 regional utilities have on a market worth an estimated ¥8 trillion.

However, while around 200 firms are currently prepared to sell electricity generated by a wide range of sources under a broad range of plans, utilities still control the distribution grid. That, combined with intense price competition and restrictions on how sellers advertise, means consumers hoping to reduce their dependency on, or break free entirely of, nuclear and fossil-fueled electricity after April 1 are going to have to research different firms, costs and plans very carefully before signing a contract.

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