(Sankei: October 27, 2015 – p. 10)
Although the governor of Ehime Prefecture gave his approval on Oct. 26 for the reactivation of the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant of Shikoku Electric Power Co., major electric power companies’ costs for thermal power generation have increased due to prolonged shutdown of nuclear power plants. According to an estimate complied by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the accumulated amount of fuel costs of major utility firms are expected to total 14.7 trillion yen in the five years from fiscal 2010 to 2015. As the major power companies have reflected the fuel costs in electric bills, roughly calculated by dividing the fuel cost by the population, it comes to some 120,000 yen per individual.
In his meeting on Oct. 26 with Ehime Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura, METI Minister Motoo Hayashi welcomed the restart of the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata plant, saying, “I thank you for your wise decision.”
Shikoku Electric Power’s thermal power generation costs totaled 141.5 billion yen in fiscal 2014, a 1.9-fold increase from fiscal 2011. Following the increase in fuel costs, the power company hiked electricity rates for households in September 2013. However, if the No.3 reactor at Ikata power plant is activated, the utility is expected to increase about 4 billion yen in earnings per month. Shikoku Electric President Hayato Saeki has already indicated that his company is considering reducing power rates.
According to METI, the total fuel costs for fiscal 2015 of nine utility companies, excluding Okinawa Electric Power Co., which does not have any nuclear power plants, will likely expand to about 6.1 trillion yen, 1.7-fold from fiscal 2011.
The total fuel costs of the nine power companies increased by about 2.3 trillion yen in fiscal 2012, 3.1 trillion yen in fiscal 2013, 3. 6 trillion yen in fiscal 2014, and 3.6 trillion yen in fiscal 2014 from the average of fuel costs for fiscal 2009-2011 before the Great East Japan Earthquake.
In light of the collapse in oil prices and resumption of operations at the No. 1 nuclear reactor at the Sendai nuclear plant of Kyushu Electric Power Co. (in Kagoshima Prefecture), the amount of an increase in fiscal 2015 is expected to be 2.3 trillion yen, a drop from the previous year, which is still at a high level. The utility firms had carried out cost-cutting by putting off repairs and by cutting labor costs. However, they have now raised electricity rates because they were unable to make up for the increase in fuel costs.