(Repeats for wider distribution, no change to text)
* Buys 100-MW Tokyo-area gas plant
* Japan embarking on major power market reforms
* Aims to lift domestic capacity to more than 360 MW
TOKYO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Marubeni Corp has bought a Tokyo-area 100-megawatt (MW) gas power plant, the Japanese trading house said on Friday, as it looks to take advantage of major reforms in store for the nation’s power sector.
The company is also aiming to add another 200 MW of domestic capacity by 2016 when the nation’s electricity market will be completely liberalized, bringing its thermal and hydro-power generation capacity in Japan to just over 360 MW, a company spokeswoman said.
An increase in power production could help lower power prices, but it would also increase competition for regional monopolies like Tokyo Electric Power Co as they deal with the fallout of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The purchase from Japan’s independent F-Power was first reported by the Nikkei business daily earlier in the day in a article that said Marubeni was also looking to build two gas-fired and two coal-fired thermal plants, all within the 100 MW capacity range in the Tokyo metropolitan area by 2016.
The Nikkei also wrote, without citing sources, that Marubeni was planning to build more fossil-fuel plants after 2016 as well as large-scale solar and wind-power plants outside the Tokyo area in hopes of ramping up its domestic power generation capacity to 1,500 MW by 2020.
A separate Marubeni spokesman said nothing had been decided at this time and the report was not based on information they had released, declining to comment further.
The Japanese government passed legislation last November that called for the establishment of a national grid by 2015 and the liberalisation of the power market for homes by 2016, as part of steps to reform the nation’s electricity sector.
Looking to sell into the power market, more than 125 firms, including companies such as Toyota Motor Corp and Panasonic Corp, have registered to be independent power sellers with the government.
Households and corporations have also expressed interest in electricity from non-traditional power firms after rates and distrust have risen of Japan’s regional power monopolies following the massive March 2011 quake and tsunami that caused reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Reporting by James Topham; Editing by Joseph Radford and Matt Driskill