Japan’s Nuclear Utilities Face Problems All Around

Two Japanese nuclear power utilities have received bail outs from Japan’s state backed bank. Hokkaido and Kyushu power companies both received bail outs. Both companies are heavily invested in nuclear power. Meanwhile nine power utilities in Japan held their annual shareholder meetings this week. All involved shareholder calls to end the use of nuclear power by the companies. All were rejected by the utilities.

TEPCO’s shareholder meeting was particularly chaotic with multiple calls for the company to end their nuclear program. All shareholder calls for these changes were rejected in large part due to the government holding a majority share of the company. TEPCO insists they will still try to restart their nuclear reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa. TEPCO also announced a plan to go into the power storage business in Europe. They hope to install energy storage systems to buy up cheap energy at night and sell it back to the grid during daytime peak use when prices are high.

The NRA had harsh words for Japan’s nuclear power utilities. In a recent meeting NRA officials said the utilities were doing the bare minimum to respond to safety screenings and are not actually taking plant safety seriously. There may be a new complication however for the nuclear utilities. The government has voted to open up the residential power markets to competition. This could give the public a tangible way to divest from supporting the old utility model put in place by the US after WWII. This could also mean big losses for these nuclear utilties. Not only would they lose their residential customer base, they would lose the ability to force rate hikes on them to pay for bad business decisions. These newly opened markets would also likely consist of more competition coming from renewable energy as that is easier and cheaper to build.

 

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