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Last week, the Tohoku Electric Power Company applied to the Japanese government to raise its electric rates by 11.4% for residential customers, to make up for the rising cost of fossil fuels needed in the wake of Japan's idling of its nuclear power plants. The utility also plans a rate hike of 17.7% for its commercial and industrial customers, but it does not need governmental approval to do so. These would be the first rate increases by Tohoku Electric in 33 years. The residential increase would have to be approved by Japan's Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI).

Tohoku is now the fourth Japanese electric utility to request substantial rate increases since the forced idling of all Japanese nuclear power plants following the Tohoku earthquake in March 2011.

How bad could things get? Very bad, warns a senior member of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party:

“The economy will eventually stall in terms of energy cost,” cautioned Hiroyuki Hosoda, executive acting secretary general of the LDP, in a speech reported by the Kyodo news service in The Mainichi.  ”Power companies will face capital deficits in around three years if their reactors remain idled, and the basis of their existence will be affected.”

His remarks echo those we reported recently from Nobuo Tanaka, a global associate with the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ), which advises Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Tanaka warned of potential “economic crisis or catastrophe” if the country fails to embrace nuclear power again.

Among other Japanese electric utilities:

* Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) received approval from METI in July 2012 to increase its household rates by 8.5% and its industrial rates by an undisclosed amount.

* Kansai Electric Power Co. applied in November 2012 to increase its household rates by 11.9% and its industrial rates by 19.2%.

* Kyushu Electric Power Co. also applied in November 2012 to raise its household rates by 8.5% and its industrial rates by 14.2%.

* Other electric utilities, such as Hokkaido Electric and Shikoku Electric, are expected to apply for rate increases soon.

Japan's electric utilities were hit hard by the earthquake of March 11, 2011, which caused a major accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Subsequently the Japanese government instituted new regulations that effectively required a shutdown of all 56 nuclear reactors in Japan, including those that were undamaged by the quake. The switch to price-volatile fossil fuels, plus the need for substantial powerline maintenance following the earthquake, has put all of Japan's electric utilities in a major financial bind.

Last December, Japanese voters elected a pro-nuclear government led by the LDP’s Shinzo Abe, who has  announced a review of the previous government’s intentions to completely phase out nuclear by 2040. It is not known if the current forced idling of nuclear plants will be lifted by the new government, or when.

Originally posted to The Numerate Historian on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:25 PM PST.

Also republished by Thorium - Better Nuclear Energy.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

    by Keith Pickering on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:25:01 PM PST

  •  Yeah but (6+ / 0-)

    A pro-nuclear policy using the existing plants threatens... everything. How much economic activity was knocked off the Japanese GDP because of the failure at Fukushima Daiichi?

    "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class." - Violet Crawley

    by nightsweat on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:29:57 PM PST

    •  Even if relevant, which it isn't, .... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Blubba

      the answer is a tiny number.

      "Threat" does not equal "certainty".  Just wait for the rates to spiral upward and the country to go into deep recession, if not depression, as a result of this new (idiotic) policy.

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

      by Neuroptimalian on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:57:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, threat proved pretty devastating (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, Sandino

        Not just to the country but to their corporations like Toyota who suffered greatly.  Yes, they're screwed, but at least they're not dead and screwed.

        "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class." - Violet Crawley

        by nightsweat on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 02:13:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Perhaps they need to connect (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, rbird, Fire bad tree pretty

    With the PVfirm that has contracted in AZ for power at below 6 cents/kwh. I am sure costs would be higher in Japan, but if they can undercut fossil fuel plants in the US...

    "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

    by ogre on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:53:55 PM PST

    •  Doubtful. (0+ / 0-)

      Japan is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet. Finding enough acreage for a large solar construction is nearly impossible. Plus the fact that solar is more expensive and more dangerous than nuclear.

      We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

      by Keith Pickering on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 01:10:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  More dangerous than nuclear? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, Fire bad tree pretty, Sandino

        Normally I'm not a link-nazi, but I'm gonna have to see a link on that one.  Otherwise, it sounds like sheer lunacy.

        Tell me what to write. tellmewhattowrite.com 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

        by rbird on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 03:35:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, there was that big (4+ / 0-)

          solar spill in Africa, just a few [thousand] years ago, remember? Turned a whole swath of the continent into desert wasteland! And don't forget what the huge solar well leak in the Gulf of Mexico that sun-poisoned countless lily white Conquistadors and tourists in the last few hundred years... And the Vampires, of course. You'd be truly horrified to see what solar exposure does to the Undead!

          It's got to stop. We need to demand the immediate shutdown of Sol or soon we might find that EVERY human being on earth will die, most well before they reach even 150 years!!! §;o)

        •  Here you go. (0+ / 0-)

          http://www.nuceng.ca/...

          Solar has a lot of people going up on rooftops for maintenance. People fall off of roofs. Which is why solar is 11 times more dangerous than nuclear (and that's conservative).

          Wind has a lot of people climbing towers for maintenance. People fall off of high places.

          Number of people killed by Fukushima radiation: zero.
          Number of people expected eventually to be killed by Fukushima radiation: zero. According to the WHO report.

          We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

          by Keith Pickering on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 03:46:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  LOL!!!! (5+ / 0-)

        Solar is more expensive and more dangerous than nuclear in what world?

        Besides, Japan is an island nation with strong technology and manufacturing sectors. They've plenty of roofs on which those 'dangerous' (heh) solar panels could be placed, and geothermal resources in all prefectures. They've got plenty of shoreline and a constant supply of kinetic forces to tap. Their offshore wind never faltered during or after the monster earthquake... kept right on going. They'll be alright when the fallout clears, without nukes.

        Japan should never have gone nuclear in the first place, and they know it now very clearly now because their nukes aren't running now and they're still a 'first world' nation. They never would have gone nuclear if we hadn't insisted, shortly after we nuked their civilian population at the end of WW-II.

        A lot of our own nukes are now known to be threatened by earthquakes too, a risk much higher than was believed when they were sited. They all - plus all GE Mark I and IIs across the board, need to be shut down and decommissioned asap. All over the world. Europe is ahead of us on this, but even with US industry foot-dragging, the waste issue will likely put an end to this madness sooner rather than later.

        The world will do fine without nukes. Honest.

      •  well (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, rbird

        at least you can wear sunscreen for the dangers of the sun, whereas nothing's gonna help with that nucular radiation.

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