Govt. postpones decision on Q3 electricity rates amid high inflation
Published : Jun 20, 2022 - 15:00
Updated : Jun 20, 2022 - 15:03

South Korea has postponed its decision on the possible adjustment of electricity fees for the third quarter, the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) said Monday.

KEPCO had planned to announce the government's decision Tuesday, a day after being informed by the government on electricity rates for the July-September period.

But the government put off the decision, as "discussions among ministries concerned are still under way," KEPCO said in a release.

KEPCO earlier called on the government to raise the rate and reform measures on setting fees to better reflect changing market circumstances, saying high energy costs and the minimum increase recently have caused its record losses.

KEPCO reported 7.79 trillion won ($6.02 billion) in losses in the first quarter, which was 2 trillion won more than the 5.86 trillion-won losses logged for all of 2021. Some forecast that the utility company could face as much as 30 trillion won in losses by year-end.

The industry and finance ministries make their decisions on the rate after KEPCO submits its quarterly rate outline.

Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho told reporters Monday that KEPCO should do more to improve its financial status before seeking a rate hike.

"KEPCO needs self-reflection on what happened to them over the past five years and why it ended up in the current state," Choo said.

In the wake of record losses, KEPCO came up with a series of reform measures, including the restructuring of overseas businesses, property sales and other cost-cutting measures.

The company, at the same time, sought a maximum 3 won hike per kilowatt hour in the fuel cost adjustment rate for the third quarter, while calling on the government to raise the quarterly increase ceiling from the current 3 won to 5 won.

"It should have made a proposal that the people can accept, but it failed to do so. We need more time to review KEPCO's restructuring plans," he added.

The government is expected to make a decision on the third-quarter rate setting later this week, according to industry ministry officials.

The government has pledged to minimize hikes in public utility fees by seeking to freeze railway, postal service, water and sewage charges, and managing the pace of hikes in electricity and gas rates.

In May, South Korea's consumer prices jumped 5.4 percent on-year, the fastest rise in almost 14 years and a pickup from a 4.8 percent spike the previous month.

Electricity rates are tallied by adding the basic fuel cost, the climate environment fee and the fuel cost adjustment rate.

In April, the government raised the basic fuel cost by 4.9 won per kilowatt hour and the climate environment fee by 2 won to 7.3 won.

But it froze the adjustment rate for the second quarter despite soaring global energy prices amid mounting inflationary pressure.

Last month, global credit appraiser S&P Global Ratings cut KEPCO's credit rating to "BB+" from "BBB-" but retained its final long-term rating at "AA." (Yonhap)