Tepco raises electricity prices for corporate clients

Aerial view of No.1 reactor building at Fukushima (27 April 2011) The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

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Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has raised electricity prices for the first time in more than 30 years in a bid to offset higher fuel costs.

Rates for corporate clients will rise by an average of 17% from 1 April.

The earthquake and tsunami last year resulted in 15 of its 17 nuclear plants being closed, forcing Tepco to turn to thermal stations for power generation.

Tepco said it was facing additional fuel costs of as much as 687bn yen ($9bn; £6bn) as a result.

The thermal power stations require natural gas, oil and coal to operate, all of which have been rising in price in recent times.

"We are very sorry for our corporate customers," Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tepco said. "I would like for them to understand the situation at our company."

Compensation claims

Higher fuel costs are not the only issue facing Tepco, Japan's biggest utility provider.

The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage to its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, resulting in radiation leaks which forced the evacuation of almost 80,000 people from the surrounding area.

Tepco faces almost $100bn (£66bn) in compensation claims from residents and businesses that have been affected.

The growing costs and high compensation claims have raised fears about the very future of Tepco, which provides electricity to some of the most densely populated and economically important regions of Japan.

There is speculation that the government may inject cash and take a substantial stake in the company, resulting in a de-facto nationalisation.

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