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2013年8月15日 (木)

中電の越境販売 「地域独占」の壁はなお厚い

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 15, 2013
Electric utilities monopolies show no sign of weakening
中電の越境販売 「地域独占」の壁はなお厚い(8月14日付・読売社説)

Chubu Electric Power Co.’s planned purchase of electricity retailer Diamond Power Corp. marks a step toward changing the status quo of the solid regional monopoly enjoyed by electric power companies, though thick barriers to overcome remain.

By purchasing Diamond Power, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp., Chubu Electric will start selling electricity in Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s service area.

Chubu Electric also plans to jointly build a new coal-fired power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture with Mitsubishi and others and start supplying electricity in TEPCO’s service area in 2016.

The sale of electricity to large-lot customers, including factories and offices, was liberalized in stages from 2000. However, Kyushu Electric Power Co. is the only major utility engaged in the “cross-border” sale of electricity. Kyushu Electric sells electricity in Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s service area.

This is probably because power companies place priority on providing electricity in their own service area, where they are responsible for power supply. However, it is undoubtedly the case that major power companies have avoided competing with each other as much as possible.

The government plans to resubmit to the Diet during its extraordinary session in autumn a bill for electricity system reform. The sale of electricity, including small contracts with households, as well as small and midsize stores, is expected to be fully liberalized as early as 2016.

Chubu Electric apparently aims to expand its revenue base by advancing into the Tokyo metropolitan area as it makes strategic preparations for the upcoming full liberalization of the electricity market.

If more power companies—encouraged by Chubu Electric’s move—enter each other’s turf in the electricity market, it will pave the way for consumers to have a choice among more than one power company. Greater convenience can also be expected amid increased competition over rates and services.

Ensure competition

So far, however, other power companies are reluctant to engage in cross-border sales of electricity.

Chubu Electric’s case is unique. As TEPCO has been mired in financial difficulties due to the crisis at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it has become difficult for TEPCO to build a power plant on its own. Chubu Electric’s idea of selling electricity beyond its territory was thus able to progress because TEPCO was willing to go along with it.

A worrisome factor is that the electricity market will be liberalized, and power generation and transmission will be separated through electricity system reform while major power firms’ regional monopolies are effectively maintained. It is feared this will have various negative effects.

If the current approval system for electricity rates is hastily abolished, there will be no means to restrain a rate hike under an “unregulated monopoly,” which would seriously undermine consumers’ interests. The government must carefully monitor progress in competition among power companies.

In the United States and other countries, intensified competition due to market liberalization resulted in cuts to budgets for repairing power lines and other equipment. In one case, defects at power facilities caused a massive blackout.

It is important to ensure a stable electricity supply to promote fair competition in the electricity market. To do so, nuclear reactors must be reactivated steadily once they have been confirmed safe to operate and efforts must be swiftly taken to resolve serious power shortages.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2013)
(2013年8月14日01時56分  読売新聞)


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