TOKYO Aug 27 Tokyo Electric Power Co
said on Wednesday it would start supplying power to customers in
areas controlled by other regional monopolies, as a shake-up in
Japan's electricity industry since the Fukushima disaster
The utility known as Tepco, which came close to collapse
after the meltdowns at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in
March 2011, is fighting back after rival utilities started
moving in on its own turf.
Japan's government is pushing through reforms to boost
competition and reduce the highest electricity rates in the
industrialised world after the meltdowns exposed flaws in the
national grid and pushed up prices.
Tepco said it would sell power to stores owned by Yamada
Denki Co, Japan's biggest consumer electronics retailer
by sales, in areas traditionally controlled by Chubu Electric
Power Co, which a year ago bought an independent
Tokyo-based electricity supplier.
The company will also supply Yamada Denki stores in areas
controlled by Kansai Electric Power Co, a Tepco
Yamada Denki has previously bought its power mainly from
Chubu Electric and Kansai Electric, according to the Nikkei
business daily, which first reported the development.
Tepco is offering lower rates, the Nikkei said, adding it
was in talks with other potential customers outside its
Japan's biggest utility was taken over by the government in
2012 and is paying billions of dollars in compensation through a
taxpayer-funded programme to those affected by the disaster,
which has led to the shutdown of all reactors in Japan.
Tepco was widely criticised for an inept response to the
disaster and for cover-ups on nuclear safety before it.
On Tuesday it was ordered by a court to pay almost $500,000
in compensation to the family of a woman who committed suicide
after the disaster, a possible precedent for further claims
against the company.
Tepco, Kansai Electric and Chubu Electric are Japan's
biggest utilities and operate in the country's main economic
centres of greater Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya respectively.
The regional monopolies, set up in 1951 during the American
occupation after World War Two, followed the U.S. model at the
time, with utilities controlling all aspects of power generation
and transmission in designated areas.
The government plans to open up regional grids to all
participants by next year and will fully liberalise prices for
residential customers after that. Later it will split the
utilities up into generation and transmission companies.
Tepco has lost 13,190 large customers since the beginning of
April last year, a Reuters survey found last week.
It said in May it was aiming for 34 billion yen ($327
million) in annual sales outside its traditional service area
within three years and 170 billion yen within 10 years. It had
electricity sales revenue of 5.9 trillion yen in the business
year that ended in March.
The utility plans to sell 10 billion kilowatt-hours of power
a year outside its area within a decade, nearly 4 percent of its
current power sales.
(1 US dollar = 104.0400 Japanese yen)
(Reporting by Kentaro Hamada; Additional reporting by Irene
Wang and James Topham; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by