Posts Tagged ‘electric power companies’

Higher electric bills on horizon to pay for solar

Friday, January 27th, 2012

The government’s plan to develop solar energy as an integral part of Japan’s electric power system is starting with power companies buying surplus energy from people who have installed solar collection systems in their homes. To promote solar energy, the companies are required to pay a certain price for the power, and they pass this added cost on to all their customers as a surcharge. On your bill it is designated as taiyoko sokushin fukakin (solar energy promotion supplement) and varies in amount depending on where you live. In regions where solar energy collectors are more prevalent, the surcharge will be larger, since the utilities in those areas pay more money for solar energy. As can be expected, sunnier regions tend to have more solar collectors.

Pittance: the surcharge for solar energy promotion on this December bill from Tepco is ¥6

Right now 3.3 percent of homes in Japan have solar systems, which means Japan has a long way to go before it reaches former Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s target of 10 million homes with solar systems, which would mean about 40 percent. In Kyushu, which tends to have more days of sunshine than other regions, the portion is 6.4 percent. In Hokkaido, it’s only 0.8 percent, which means the average surcharge for Kyushu residents is much higher than it is for Hokkaido residents.

Another factor that determines how widespread solar systems are in a given area is the amount of subsidies local governments offer to residents who install them. In 2010, Aichi Prefecture was No. 1, with 16,000 applications for subsidies, followed by Saitama and Tokyo. Home ownership rates in Aichi and Saitama are very high.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun has reported that on Jan. 24 Japan’s 10 regional power companies announced that the surcharge would increase in 2012. Currently, the surcharge ranges from ¥2 to ¥21 per month. It will increase, depending on the place, by ¥3 to ¥24 per month. (For Tokyoites, it will average about ¥17 a month.) These 10 companies bought 2.15 billion kilowatt/hours worth of energy from home solar systems in 2011, which is equivalent to 30-40 percent of the output of a nuclear reactor during the course of a single year. For this, they paid ¥95.6 billion, a 53 percent increase over what they paid for solar energy in 2010.

In July, the power companies will start another phase of the energy scheme when they begin buying electricity from wind power generators and other renewable energy sources, though it isn’t clear right now what sort of surcharge will be added to energy bills as a result.

Power to the people: TEPCO at economic cross-purposes with blackout strategy

Friday, March 18th, 2011

An article in this week’s Sunday Mainichi implies that Tokyo Electric Power Company’s series of planned blackouts in the Kanto region to address power shortages as a result of the failure of the Fukushima nuclear reactors is a kind of demonstration, the point of which is to show customers that they really need those nuclear reactors, even if they are on the verge of rendering the Tohoku region radioactive. Though the article’s tone is cynical, anti-nuclear forces have been accusing Tepco of essentially the same PR strategy for years. Faced with another serious power shortage in 2003, Tepco threatened blackouts unless customers cut back after the company was forced to shut down reactors for emergency inspections in light of a safety scandal.

Tepco "eco-cute" ad for "economical" (not "ecological") all-electric house

Electricity users in the Kanto region are already dealing with periodic power outages to save energy, and because we’re doing as we’re told, some planned outages have been canceled. The problem with generating electricity over a conventional power grid is that once you generate it you can’t recover any that isn’t used. And unlike thermal generators that use fossil fuels, nuclear reactors cannot be turned up or down at will. Once they are operating it takes months to turn them off. Tepco’s output is basically a blend of constant nuclear power and fluctuating thermal and other forms of power generation. The 10 Fukushima reactors provided 14 percent of Tepco’s power, about 50 million kilowatts.

Average power consumption at any given moment during March in the Kanto region is estimated at 47 million kw. This is far less than the 65 million kw that are normally consumed during the peak days of summer, when air conditioners are on, but last Monday, when Tepco launched the planned blackouts, the maximum output available was 31 million kw, so Tepco had to convince homes and businesses to use less than that. If they didn’t, they would have to cut power to the designated “groups.”

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