*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
First floor lobby, Annex to the House of Councillors
Ministerial Council on Prices
I would like to mention three points.
First, at the Ministerial Council on Prices that was held earlier, the policy for assessing seven major power companies’ applications for an increase in regulatory electricity rates was approved. Against the backdrop of rising fuel prices due to the aggression against Ukraine, the seven companies applied for rate increases ranging from around 30% to 50%. We have recalculated costs in light of the most recent fuel prices and, without being constrained by precedents, conducted a very strict assessment of their management efficiency, demanding a reduction of up to 23% in fixed costs, including maintenance cost.
Following the assessment, the rate of increase for a standard household comes to 21% for Hokkaido Electric Power, 24% for Tohoku Electric Power, 14% for Tokyo Electric Power Energy Partner, 42% for Hokuriku Electric Power, 29% for Chugoku Electric Power, 25% for Shikoku Electric Power, and 38% for Okinawa Electric Power.
Moreover, we have made trial calculations in consideration of the fuel adjustment rate based on the reduction of the FIT surcharge in FY2023 and a further decline in the most recent fuel prices as well as the measures to mitigate the impact of significant, sudden fluctuations in electricity rates. As a result of such calculations, in the case of five of the seven companies, the electricity rates will fall below the levels that existed before they filed applications.
As for the remaining two companies, in the case of Okinawa Electric Power, I understand that Okinawa Prefecture, on its own initiative, has allocated budget funds totaling 10.4 billion yen, which includes financial support from the national government, for the purpose of reducing the burden of electricity rate increases. If the funds are used for this purpose, the electricity rates are expected to decline.
In the case of Hokuriku Electric Power, it will be the first rate increase in 43 years. Even so, the company’s electricity rates will be the lowest among the seven companies that have applied for a rate increase at this time.
As you know, Kansai Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power, both of which have gone ahead with the restart of nuclear power stations, have not applied for a rate change at this time. Their electricity rates remain much lower than the levels of the other major electric power companies’ rates.
In addition, compared with the levels in February 2022, before Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, all companies’ electricity rates remain almost the same or lower. Now that the assessment policy has been approved, today, I will provide instruction to the seven applicant companies to make modifications based on the assessment results, and after the necessary procedures have been implemented, approvals will be granted.
We will strongly call on the seven companies that will be granted approval to carefully provide easy-to-understand explanations to users and promote thorough management efficiency improvements. We will firmly follow up on their activities.
Consumer Product Safety Act
Second, today, a Cabinet decision was made on the cabinet order to partially amend the Order for Enforcement of the Consumer Product Safety Act. Serious product accidents have occurred with infants accidentally swallowing toys known as magnet sets using a combination of multiple magnet pieces with strong magnetic force, and water-absorbing synthetic resin toys. The decision was made to prohibit sales of those products that fail to meet the new technical standards. METI will strive to take measures to ensure the safety of products intended for use by children through measures like this. As for detailed information, the administrative staff will provide a briefing later.
Third, in cooperation with the Study Group on Realization of a Virtuous Cycle of Women’s Empowerment and Economic Growth under Minister Ogura, METI has proceeded with a study on measures to support female entrepreneurs. Before summarizing the study, the Committee on New Direction of Economic and Industrial Policies, at a meeting to be held today, will announce a package of support measures for female entrepreneurs.
To provide comprehensive support for female entrepreneurs that takes into account the particular challenges they face, first, we aim to increase the percentage of women to 20% among entrepreneurs under the J-Startup initiative. We will also create a female entrepreneur program as part of the overseas dispatch program for entrepreneurs. Moreover, we will promote a human resource development program for female entrepreneurs under “Plus,” a startup support platform operated by governmental organizations. In addition, support by Japan Investment Corporation for fostering “female capitalists” is also included in this package. We will provide thorough support for entrepreneurs with a daring spirit, and female entrepreneurs in particular.