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2014年8月 5日 (火)

北海道電値上げ 原発再稼働で火力頼み脱却を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hokkaido Electric’s rate hikes must lead to reactors going back online
北海道電値上げ 原発再稼働で火力頼み脱却を

The electricity rate hikes implemented by seven utilities since the Great East Japan Earthquake have entered a second round of markups.
 東日本大震災後に電力7社が実施した料金値上げが2巡目に入った。

To avoid stagnation in the economy, which is now subject to the adverse effects of the April consumption tax increase, it is urgent and necessary to bring forward the smooth restart of nuclear power plants after confirming the safety of their operations.
 消費増税の逆風を受けている景気を失速させないため、安全性を確認した原発の再稼働を円滑に進める必要がある。

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. has applied for electricity rate hikes with the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. It seeks to raise electricity bills by 17 percent for households and 22 percent for corporate users, the highest increases requested by a domestic utility since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. The Hokkaido regional utility’s planned hikes are expected to go into effect as early as this autumn after a ministry screening on whether the higher rates are reasonable.
 北海道電力が電気料金の値上げを経済産業省に申請した。家庭向けが17%、企業向けは22%で、震災以降に各社が申請した値上げ幅としては最大である。審査を経て秋にも実施されると見られる。

Hokkaido Electric raised its rates in September last year, but has been forced into circumstances that have made another hike unavoidable less than a year later. This is primarily because the firm’s financial condition has drastically deteriorated due to swelling fuel costs for thermal power generation to make up for its halted nuclear reactors. The planned resumption of the three reactors Hokkaido Electric owns at its Tomari nuclear complex—previously envisioned to be restarted in sequence from last December—has failed to get off the ground.
 北海道電は昨年9月に値上げしたが、1年足らずで再値上げ申請に追い込まれた。昨年12月から順次、実施するとしていた泊原発3基の再稼働が実現せず、代替する火力発電の燃料費がかさみ、収益が急激に悪化したためだ。

Although it recently received ¥50 billion as a capital injection from the Development Bank of Japan in a bid to improve its ailing finances, Hokkaido Electric’s business prospects remain severe.
 累積赤字で悪化した財務内容を改善するため、日本政策投資銀行から500億円の資本支援を受けたが、先行きは厳しい。

Unless it can make up its financial shortfall by increasing revenue through higher electricity rates, Hokkaido Electric is said to face the risk of its liabilities surpassing its assets as early as next fiscal year.
 値上げによる収入の増加で赤字体質を脱却しないと、来年度にも負債が資産を上回る債務超過に転落しかねないという。

There is also concern that the utility may find it hard to raise funds through such independent means as loans from financial institutions and issuance of corporate bonds, thus becoming unable to make sufficient capital investment to ensure a stable supply of electricity. Given the situation, it should be considered inevitable that Hokkaido Electric has to increase its electricity rates to some degree.
 借り入れや社債による資金調達が難しくなり、電力安定供給に必要な設備投資が滞る恐れもある。一定の値上げはやむを得まい。

Little room to cut costs

Nevertheless, it is necessary to make the markups as small as possible to minimize the power bill burdens on households and businesses.
 とはいえ、家計や企業の負担を最小限にするため、値上げ幅はできるだけ圧縮する必要がある。

Hokkaido Electric has been making serious efforts to enhance its business efficiency, worth ¥50 billion per year, through such moves as cuts in personnel costs and expenditures for procuring power generation materials. The utility should study whether there is any room to further streamline its operations.
 北海道電はこれまで、人件費や資材調達費の削減など年500億円の経営効率化を進めてきた。さらに一段のリストラの余地はないか、検討してもらいたい。

It is also important to undertake a review of its power supply services, including the advisability of devising a new electricity rate-charging system designed to allow users to reduce their electricity bills based on their ability to find resourceful ways to economize on power consumption.
 利用者が電気の使い方を工夫すれば負担を抑えられる料金メニューを用意するなど、サービス面の見直しも重要である。

If operations are resumed at the Tomari nuclear plant and the firm’s finances improve, the utility will be in a position to consider the possibility of lowering electricity charges.
 泊原発の再稼働が実現し、収支が改善すれば、値下げの環境が整うだろう。

On a related note, there are understandable concerns that Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power are highly likely to seek another rate hike themselves.
 懸念されるのは、東京電力と関西電力も再値上げに踏み切る可能性が高いことだ。

Eighty percent of small and midsized businesses say their profitability will inevitably shrink if electricity bills are raised again. Rising electricity costs could even turn out to be the Achilles’ heel that hampers the Abenomics economic policy mix undertaken by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
 再値上げされれば、減益が避けられないとする中小企業は8割に達する。電力コスト上昇は、安倍政権の経済政策「アベノミクス」のアキレス腱けんとなりかねない。

There are no prospects of lower fuel costs for thermal power generation in the foreseeable future, while cost-cutting efforts by power utilities are nearing their limits in steps to streamline operations. To prevent electricity bills from being raised again, there is no alternative but to slash power generation costs by bringing reactors back online.
 火力発電の燃料調達コストが下がる見通しは立たず、リストラによる電力会社の経費節減も限界に近い。再値上げを防ぐには、原発を再稼働し、発電コストを下げるほかに手立てはあるまい。

A path toward resumption has begun to be carved out for the operation of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. The Nuclear Regulation Authority should proceed without delay with the task of conducting safety screenings of other nuclear reactors. The government must throw its support behind the utilities’ efforts through such means as playing a leading role in providing residents of nuclear plant-hosting communities with convincing explanations about the restart.
 九州電力川内原発は再稼働への道筋が見えてきた。原子力規制委員会は他原発の安全審査を遅滞なく進めるべきだ。政府も地元への説明で前面に立つなど、再稼働を後押しすることが求められる。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2014)

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