Electricity deregulation Japan: TEPCO to bundle consumer services

Japan’s largest electric utility Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has plans to set up a grid-scale energy storage venture in Britain and parts of Europe in a bid to offset losses from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster and enter into the wholesale electricity market, according to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review.

TEPCO will create a joint venture in the UK by March 2016 with NGK Insulators, a Nagoya-based company with which it has developed large storage cells.

Success in Britain would lead it to enter wholesale power markets in other places such as France and Germany, the Nikkei said.

Stable power supply

TEPCO said on Thursday that it and NGK had jointly applied for a government project to support feasibility studies on exporting infrastructure systems.

They want to explore possibilities of using large storage cells for stable power supply service in Britain but nothing concrete has been decided, a company spokesman said.

TEPCO halted overseas investment in the wake of meltdowns at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which caused the now government-controlled utility to lose almost 10,000 large customers since the beginning of April 2013, and pay billions of dollars in compensation.

Breaking utility monopolies

The new venture comes as TEPCO announced plans in May 2014 to sell electricity outside its service area, a move that follows government plans to open up the sector to increased competition, Reuters reports.

Tepco said it plans to start electricity sales nationally, but mainly in the services areas of Kansai Electric and Chubu Electric as early as October 1.

It is aiming for 34 billion yen (US$335 million) in annual sales outside its traditional service area within three years, and 170 billion yen within 10 years, however industry experts believe the utility’s inept response to the disaster may hinder its attempt to increase market share, the news agency reports.

Meanwhile, Japan’s government is seeking to increase competition in the market in a bid to reduce the highest electricity rates in the industrialised world since the disaster, the news agency reports.

Plans include opening up regional grids, each tightly controlled by the local monopoly, to all participants by 2015 and fully liberalising prices for residential customers after that.

A final reform stage involves splitting up utilities into generation and transmission companies.

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