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2012年11月28日 (水)

電気料金値上げ 再稼働と合理化で負担抑えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 28, 2012)
Realistic policies the only way to hold down electricity rates
電気料金値上げ 再稼働と合理化で負担抑えよ(11月27日付・読売社説)

It will be necessary for electric power companies to raise their rates to a certain degree for the sake of a stable electricity supply.
 電力を安定供給するため、電力会社が一定の値上げに踏み切るのはやむを得まい。

Kansai Electric Power Co. on Monday applied for the approval of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry for a hike of about 12 percent on average in household rates. KEPCO also plans to raise the rates for corporate customers--a move that does not require prior ministry approval--by about 19 percent on average. The utility plans to implement the hikes in April next year.
 関西電力が26日、家庭向け電気料金について、約12%の値上げを経済産業省に申請した。認可が不要な企業向けも平均19%値上げする方針で、来年4月の実施を目指す。

In the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, triggered by the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake, the nation's only currently operating nuclear reactors are a pair at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture. These reactors resumed operation after safety checkups of the plant, which supplies power to KEPCO's service area.
 東京電力福島第一原子力発電所の事故後、関電管内では福井県の大飯原発2基しか再稼働していない。

As fuel costs for operating thermal power plants as an alternative to the suspended nuclear plants have risen, KEPCO has been unable to keep its deficit from expanding.
代替電源である火力発電所の燃料費が増大し、赤字拡大に歯止めがかからない状況だ。

In applying for the rate hikes, the utility said, "If things are left as they are, we may face difficulty carrying out our primary mission of providing a steady supply of electricity."
 関電は「このままでは最大の使命である電力の安定供給に支障をきたしかねない」と説明した。

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Cost-cutting good, but not enough

In step with the rate hike application, KEPCO has also quite appropriately come up with a plan to cut its operational costs, including labor costs, by 150 billion yen a year. We hope the utility will make further streamlining efforts.
 値上げ申請に合わせ、人件費など年1500億円の経費節減を打ち出したのは妥当である。さらなる合理化に努めてほしい。

To encourage public acceptance, it will be important for the government to carefully check whether costs used for calculating the rates set by KEPCO are correct when considering whether to approve the proposed hikes.
 値上げに理解を得るには、政府が認可審査にあたって、料金原価が適正かどうか厳しく調べることも重要と言える。

Following KEPCO, Kyushu Electric Power Co. is set to apply for rate hikes on Tuesday. Hokkaido, Tohoku and Shikoku electric power companies may follow suit, depending on the circumstances.
 関電に続いて、九州電力が27日に値上げを申請する。北海道、東北、四国の3電力も、状況次第で追随する可能性がある。

Since TEPCO raised its rates in April, other power companies have managed to avoid rate hikes by tapping into reserve funds. But they seem unable to do so any longer.
 東電が今年4月から値上げを始めた後も、各電力は内部留保を取り崩して値上げを控えてきたが、もはや限界のようだ。

Of course utilities should try to limit the size of any rate hikes by thoroughly rationalizing their operations. But it will be difficult for them to hold down rates through restructuring alone. Therefore, it is necessary to utilize those nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed.
 電力会社が徹底した合理化で値上げ幅を圧縮するのは当然だが、リストラだけで値上げは抑えられない。安全性を確認できた原発を活用することが不可欠である。

KEPCO has calculated its requested rate hikes on the assumption that two reactors at its Takahama nuclear plant will resume operation. Kyushu Electric Power Co. likewise is to come up with its rate hike figures on the assumption that it can start up three or four of its reactors again.
 関電の値上げ幅は、高浜原発2基の再稼働が前提だ。九電も3~4基の再稼働を見込んでいる。

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Face reality of need for N-power

The government's Nuclear Regulation Authority will decide on new safety standards no sooner than next summer. The government, meanwhile, should waste no time in preparing procedures to enable nuclear reactors to resume operations without a hitch once their safety has been confirmed. It is also necessary to make efforts to build up the acceptance and confidence of local communities regarding the resumption.
 政府の原子力規制委員会が新たな安全基準を策定するのは、早くても来夏となる。政府は時間を空費せず、安全を確認後、円滑に再稼働できる手順を用意しておくべきだ。地元の理解を得るための信頼醸成も求められる。

If the reactors remain idle, fuel costs will rise above currently assumed levels, making it likely that electricity users will be asked to accept additional rate hikes.
 再稼働が実現しないと想定を超える燃料費がかかり、追加値上げを迫られる可能性がある。

Should rates soar, the impact on ordinary households will be great. The additional pressure on small and midsize businesses whose financial situation is weak may push them to the brink of failure--or over it.
 電気料金が急騰すれば、家庭への影響は大きい。経営体力の弱い中小企業も倒産・廃業の危機に直面しよう。

As the hollowing-out of the nation's industry accelerates, with more businesses shifting their plants abroad, it is feared that domestic jobs will rapidly disappear.
工場が海外移転する産業空洞化の加速で、国内雇用が急速に失われる懸念は拭えない。

As another measure that should be promoted to prevent utility rates from soaring is a strategy of cheaply procuring thermal fuels such as liquefied natural gas. The government has a major role to play in negotiating with resource-producing countries and promoting joint resource development.
 料金高騰の防止に向け、液化天然ガス(LNG)などの燃料を安く調達する戦略も推進したい。資源国との交渉や資源開発で、政府の果たすべき役割は大きい。

However, as long as Japan sticks to the slogan of "a nuclear-free society," it will be at a disadvantage in negotiations with resource-producing nations, who would naturally take advantage of Japan's weakness.
 日本が「原発ゼロ」を掲げたままでは資源国に足もとを見られ、交渉は不利になる。

It is thus a matter of great urgency for the government to shift to a realistic energy policy.
現実的なエネルギー政策への転換が急務だ。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 27, 2012)
(2012年11月27日01時12分  読売新聞)

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