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Shikoku Electric Power Company, Inc. Business Information, Profile, and History

2-5, Marunouchi Takamatsu 760-91 Shikoku

History of Shikoku Electric Power Company, Inc.

Shikoku Electric Power Company, Inc. (Shikoku Electric) is one of the nine major regional power companies that generate, transmit, and distribute electricity throughout Japan. The company supplies electricity to all four of Shikoku's prefectures: Tokushima, Kochi, Ehime, and Kagawa. Shikoku, with an area of 19,000 square kilometers and 4.25 million people, has an industrial output of ¥7 trillion. This is small compared with Japan's total, but makes Shikoku Electric one of the business leaders in Shikoku, the least industrialized of Japan's four main islands.

Shikoku Electric was formed as a company on May 1, 1951, when the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers (GHQ) under General MacArthur approved a plan submitted by the Japanese government to reorganize and rationalize the electrical power industry. Under the scheme, the nation was divided into nine blocks, each with its own privately owned electric power company (EPC). At the time of inauguration the nine companies served 16 million customers with a combined capacity of 8,500 megawatts (MW). Of this, Shikoku Electric's portion was a relatively small 290MW or just over 3%. Shikoku is the smallest and least developed of Japan's four main islands, but since ancient times has maintained close ties with the old capital cities in Honshu such as nearby Kyoto and Nara and more recently Tokyo. It has played an important role as a transit island in shipping between Japan and its trading partners through ports such as Kochi on the south Pacific Coast. Although the chief industries in the region have traditionally been low-technology, such as forestry and handicrafts, there has been a recent boom in the Ehime and Kagawa prefectures in the high-technology sector, prompted in part by the government's "Technopolis" scheme to promote high-technology industry in Shikoku. There has also been a recent boom in tourism on the island, peaking in 1989. Thus the history of electric power on a large scale in Shikoku starts fairly recently.

The history of electric power in Japan as a whole, however, goes back to 1878 when Professor W.E. Aryton of the Institute of Technology in Tokyo unveiled an arc lamp to celebrate the opening of the Central Telegraph Office. Japan's first electric utility company was established in 1886, seven years after Thomas Edison invented the incandescent lamp in the United States. The company was Tokyo Electric Lighting Company, and its first electric power plant--the first in Japan also--was completed in 1887 as a 25 kilowatt (kW) facility in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. Throughout its history Japan has always been able to assimilate and improve upon outside technology and ideas, and electric power was no exception. After the opening of the Tokyo Electric Lighting plant, many electric utilities started up in main cities. Although demand had increased rapidly--electricity was a great improvement over the troublesome oil lamps then in use--service was generally limited to government and commercial offices and factories. Most of the first plants in Japan were thermal, powered by coal, but in 1891 the first hydroelectric power station was completed in Kyoto. A large part of the demand for electricity came from the electric railways that were springing up all over the country. Spurred on by these developments, electricity in the form of electric lighting was first introduced to Shikoku in 1896 by the Tokushima Electric Lighting Company in Tokushima City. The next seven years saw the spread of electric lighting into Shikoku's four prefectures by Takamatsu Lighting, Tosa Lighting, and Iyo Hydroelectric Power, which pioneered hydroelectricity in Shikoku by building the first plant in Ehime prefecture in 1903. The years 1896 to 1912 saw the rapid development of these four power companies. The turnover of Tokushima Electric, for example, increased a thousandfold between 1900 and 1912. The most common initial usage of electricity was in the lighting of streets and public areas, but increasingly the upper-class town dwellers had electric lights installed in their homes.

In 1911 the government enacted the Electric Utility Industry Law. The law necessitated government permission for the production and distribution of electric power. By 1920 there were 3,000 power companies in Japan, riding on Japan's economic boom, and the number operating in the towns of Shikoku numbered about 50. The depression of the 1920s in Japan, following its defeat in World War I, was exacerbated by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and the worldwide market crash in 1929; it did not have an excessive effect on the economy of Shikoku but it did prevent growth during this period. The period between 1926 and 1937 can be characterized as the era of the "Big Five" in the history of electric power in Japan. It was dominated by Tokyo Electric Lighting and Daido Power in particular. The government regulated the industry by passing four laws in 1938 which ensured state control over prices, plant development, transmission, and all other aspects of the industry. In effect it had formed one of the largest electric companies in the world with the establishment of JEGTCO (Japan Electric Generation and Transmission Company). The Allied bombing of Japan from 1943 to 1945 seriously damaged 44% of Japan's power stations and devastated Japanese industry. Shikoku, however, not being a strategic target, was largely untouched. The GHQ, which was effectively in charge of Japan from 1945 to 1952, made sweeping changes in Japan's electric power industry.

The Council for Reorganization of Electric Utility Industry was formed in 1949 and chaired by Yasuzaemon Matsunaga, former president of Toho Electric Power Company. After much negotiation, a plan was produced that divided the country into nine areas, each with its own privately owned electric power company. Thus the Shikoku Electric Power Company was formed, with initial capitalization of ¥400 million or US$1.1 million.

The first chairman was Yoichi Takeoka, who was formally in charge of Takamatsu Electric Light Company. Takeoka began a consolidation of Shikoku Electric's facilities and the company embarked on an immediate expansion program. Just two months after the company's establishment, work began on a hydroelectric facility on the Kuro River. Like the rest of Japan, much of the center of Shikoku is mountainous and thus a good source of hydroelectric power, on which most of Shikoku's power facilities at this time operated. The company began to promote the use of electric power in the more rural areas that had previously been uneconomical markets for the smaller utilities in Shikoku. The central headquarters were rationalized and divisions between the regional offices abolished. Pensions, health care, and insurance were offered on an equal basis to all company employees. Some of the less modern generating facilities were closed and replaced with more efficient plants, with more thermal facilities being built. A listing on the Osaka stock exchange in October 1952 was followed by a Tokyo listing in May 1953. By the end of 1953 customer service branches were established in all the major towns of Shikoku, and the capitalization of the company had trebled to ¥1.19 billion. Also in this year a pioneering automatic combustion control system was installed on all Shikoku Electric's transmission and generating equipment to regulate the amount of fuel burnt and hence save energy. This was followed in the 1950s and early 1960s with a series of technological upgradings. Emphasis was also placed on the training of staff and customers in the safe use of electrical equipment. As a result Shikoku had the lowest electricity-related accident rate in the country.

In 1956 company president Chikuma Miyagawa initiated research into the use of nuclear power by the company. Shikoku Electric was at this time the most advanced of Japan's nine regional electric utility companies with regards to nuclear power. By 1985 nuclear energy had become the dominant source of power in Shikoku, accounting for 39% of the total, and was expected to rise to 50% by the year 2000. Realizing that the potential of hydroelectric power in the region was ultimately limited, a section was created within the company in 1956 devoted to the development of coal, gas, and oil-fired power. In order to keep abreast of the latest technology in electric power generation, Shikoku Electric sent its chief engineers and planning officers to Europe and the United States on conferences, training courses, and exchange programs. In this, it was typical of Japanese industry at the time, desperate for technological knowledge which it saw as the key to success. At this time the company began in earnest the process of closing down redundant transformer substations and replacing them with a smaller number of higher voltage, more efficient units. Also in 1956, by boosting the existing capacity of Hirayama Power Station by 470kW to 2900kW, Shikoku Electric came to own the largest hydroelectric facility in the country and in 1959 began operating the country's first reverse wheel hydroelectric plant, the 11,800kW facility on Omori River. The year 1958 saw changes in the organization of the company, with increasing centralization of planning, engineering, and sales operations. In 1960 Miyazawa took over as chairman of the company, which by this time was the largest company in Shikoku with a capitalization of US$19 million. For the next decade, like the other EPCs in Japan, Shikoku Electric concentrated on the building of oil-fired generating stations such as the 125MW plant completed in Tokushima in 1963. Cheap and plentiful Middle Eastern oil and lax environmental controls at the time made this form of generation the most economically attractive. The oil shocks of 1973 and 1978 and increasing emission control quotas changed all this, and Shikoku Electric's main priority following these events was the development and construction of a nuclear power station. With technological help from and cooperation with France's nuclear power program as well as the other domestic companies, Ikata Nuclear Plant was completed in 1978 with two initial pressurized water reactors and a combined output of almost 1,200MW, with an additional 890MW planned for 1995. Japan's nuclear program has long been a sensitive public issue and therefore extremely stringent safety controls were laid down. Japan's nuclear energy safety record is one of the world's best, and Shikoku Electric has the additional distinction of operating the world's most efficient reactor.

During the 1970s Shikoku Electric's sales trebled and although the company's work force remained fairly steady at about 5,000, its revenues and profits increased dramatically. These profits were spent almost entirely on capital investment and research. In the early 1980s, plans for the largest bridge in the world, to link Shikoku with the main island of Honshu, were drawn up. The impressive Seto bridge was completed in 1988 at a cost of about ¥1.13 trillion and had the important effect of creating a tourist boom and urban renewal in the area. For Shikoku Electric, not only did this mean more business, but the bridge was also used to carry a major trunkline connecting it with Kansai Electric Power's grid. The late 1980s saw a slowdown of the growth seen from the 1970s as Shikoku Electric's market matured. To some extent the company has diversified into new areas such as telecommunications with the formation of Shikoku Information & Telecommunication Network and the production of electric power equipment with Techno-Success Company. It is unlikely that these ventures will contribute significantly to profits in the near future, however, and emphasis is placed on the continued development of the electric power market. Schemes such as the all-electric house, increased customer service, and the application of the hourly rate fluctuation system are some examples. On the international scene, the company continues to exchange information with similar companies worldwide, and was a founding member of the World Association of Nuclear Operators formed in 1989. As most of the company's crucial raw materials come from abroad, a tight check is kept on commodity prices, and long-term purchase agreements such as those for uranium from France and Australia have been entered into. Financially, the company is in an excellent position, with a AAA rating with regard to raising money on the domestic bond market. Overseas, the company conducted two bond issues in Europe in 1989.

To mark the 40th year of business as Shikoku Electric, the company in 1991 planned to launch a new corporate profile containing plans for the 21st century. Although the plans have not yet been made public, it is likely that they will be based on the environmentally safe and efficient generation of power along with increased provision for the development of customer services related to the core business of power generation.

Principal Subsidiaries: Shikoku Information & Telecommunication Network Co. Inc. (45%); Shikoku General Research Centre; Shikoku Electrical Engineering (20%); Shikoku Tech (16%); Shiden Engineering (87%); Shikoku Engineering (80%); Shikoku Industries (90%); Shikoku Technical Consultants (72%); Shikoku Research (50%); Shikoku Sales Service (64%); Aizen General Business (80%); Kochi General Business (71%); Shikoku Cellular Phone (20%); Techno-Success (18%).

Additional topics

Company HistoryElectricity & Utilities

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