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Tepco President Rebuked by Rescue Fund Chief on Rate Hike

Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Toshio Nishizawa was rebuked by the head of a government rescue fund over an increase in electricity rates as he sought approval for more aid to cover compensation for the Fukushima disaster.

Kazuhiko Shimokobe, the head of the steering committee of the government-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, told Nishizawa it was “regrettable” that the utility didn’t explain details of its electricity rate increase plan before it made the announcement on Jan. 17. Nishizawa apologized and asked the fund’s officials to approve the utility’s request for further aid.

The utility known as Tepco requested on Dec. 27 689.4 billion yen ($9 billion) in extra aid as it has been relying on government support to avoid insolvency. Tepco may face 4.5 trillion yen in compensation payments by 2013 after the March 11 quake and tsunami caused meltdowns and radiation release at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station.

Officials of the fund approved the utility’s request for further aid at the end of today’s closed meeting, Tepco said in a statement. The request was then submitted to Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano, it said.

Tepco plans to raise electricity rates for corporate customers by an average of 17 percent from April to cover rising fuel costs to run thermal plants.

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