Tepco Says No Plan to Raise Power Prices Even With Nuclear Idled

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has no plans to raise electricity rates this year even as it looks increasingly likely it won’t get approval to restart nuclear reactors this summer.

Tepco, as Japan’s biggest utility is known, will need to look at further cost cuts before price increases, incoming chairman Fumio Sudo said in a Tokyo press conference today.

Tepco officials have indicated in recent weeks they face further delays in restarting two reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world’s biggest. The utility had anticipated switching the reactors back on as early as July as part of its business recovery plan from the Fukushima disaster.

While that plan was approved by Japan’s government in January and includes a deal with Tepco’s biggest lenders to turn on the two reactors in summer, the timing is now difficult, Seiichi Fubasami, a planning manager for the utility, said on March 28.

Inspections at a nearby earthquake fault were complicating the restart plans, new chairman Sudo said in an interview last month with the Mainichi newspaper. The governor of Niigata prefecture, who would be expected to approve the units’ restart, has also been critical of Tepco’s safety record.

Nuclear plants produced more than 25 percent of Japan’s electricity before the Fukushima disaster, meaning Tepco and other utilities had to switch on oil-, coal- and gas-fired plants to make up the difference. The cost of importing those fuels has driven the country into a trade deficit for 20 straight months while the current-account shortfall reached a record 1.6 trillion yen ($15.5 billion) in January.

Tokyo Electric burned twice as much coal for power generation in 2013 as it did in 2012. The company used 6.4 million metric tons of coal last year, compared with 3.1 million in 2012, according to Bloomberg News calculations based on data from the company’s website.

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