Tepco eyes partnerships on nuclear power, distribution
Japanese utility attempts overhaul as Fukushima costs swell
TOKYO -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings is expected to pursue partnerships and consolidation with peers on electricity distribution and nuclear power under its rehabilitation plan to be revised next spring.
The cost for dealing with the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is expected to top 20 trillion yen ($175 billion), rising from the previous estimate of 11 trillion yen. The government is likely to continue calling the shots at Tepco for some time, and the utility faces an urgent need to overhaul its business structure in order to accelerate its recovery.
By partnering or consolidating with neighboring utilities on power distribution, Tepco could cut costs via the joint procurement of materials as well as operate and maintain transmission lines more efficiently.
Restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant would be a key step forward for Tepco's nuclear power business. But Niigata Prefecture, which hosts the facility, elected a new governor in October who is cautious about bringing reactors back online. Most think Tepco will have difficulty swaying the governor on its own, given the company's responsibility involving the Fukushima disaster. The utility looks to work with outside partners in order to get the green light.
Tepco already has sought a partner in thermal power and its fuel business, resulting in an alliance with Chubu Electric Power. The utility plans to seek similar arrangements in power distribution and in nuclear power.
Major utilities are hesitant to collaborate with Tepco due to heavy costs associated with the 2011 disaster. The company will not include the Fukushima Daiichi station in any spinoff or merger plans, ensuring a future partner does not have to shoulder the burden.
A panel convened Monday by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reaffirmed the need for Tepco to restructure and integrate all of its businesses, except for Fukushima Daiichi. Based on the panel's suggestions to be made by the end of the year, Tepco and its leading shareholder, the state-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., will update the utility's rehabilitation plan.