Hasty Electric Power System Reform Could Hinder Economic Growth

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), April 3, 2013 | Go to article overview

Hasty Electric Power System Reform Could Hinder Economic Growth


Will the government's reform to the electric power system spur economic growth? There is good reason to doubt it.

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a basic policy for electric power system reform. It proposed full liberalization of retail sales of electricity, including that for households, in 2016.

The policy also calls for separating the power generation from the power transmission and distribution businesses in five to seven years by requiring power companies to set up separate group firms for such businesses.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regards electric power reform as a central pillar of its overall growth strategy. It probably expects such reform will lower electricity rates through increased competition and spur growth in related industries.

However, if the cheap, stable supply of electricity is disrupted as a result of the hasty reform, economic growth will not result, and it will only deal a blow to the country's economy.

We believe the positive effects, as well as the side effects, of the electric power system reform must be properly assessed.

Reform with caution

In particular, pushing through the reform while the power supply situation remains on a tightrope must be avoided. The Liberal Democratic Party has called on the government to make efforts to ensure a stable electricity supply. This request is appropriate.

Top priority should be given to resolving the serious power shortage situation by reactivating idled reactors once their safety has been confirmed.

The concern is that the separation of power generation and transmission, which is the centerpiece of the reform, could disrupt the stable supply of power. Finely tuned responses allowed under the current integrated supply system, such as adjustments to the amount of power generated according to such factors as weather temperature, could become difficult if power generation and transmission are handled by different companies. …

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