SEJONG, The state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) has logged operating losses for the last two consecutive quarters, but it can bear the deficit so far and won't raise electricity prices in the short term, its chief said Tuesday.

KEPCO posted 15.7 trillion won (US$14 billion) in sales in the first quarter, while logging 127.6 billion won in operating losses due to a rise in raw materials prices and the low operation rate of nuclear reactors. The operational rate of the nation's reactors was 71.2 percent in 2017, the lowest in two decades.

"(KEPCO) has posted a deficit so far, but it is bearable. I think there is considerable room for absorbing the losses," KEPCO CEO Kim Jong-kap said in a meeting with reporters. "If the operation rate of nuclear reactors rise in the latter half of this year, the situation will be much better than now."

Though the state utility firm has no plan to raise electricity prices for now, Kim was in favor of adjusting the industrial electricity rate at night between 11 p.m. and 9 a.m., the cheapest time of the day.

As South Korea maintains electricity prices lower than other countries, Kim said companies are encouraged to use electricity generated from power plants even when they can use other energy sources, such as natural gas and coal, in factories.

"It is a waste of energy," Kim said. "We have to fix the wrong energy consumption practices, and that's why we have to adjust the night time rates."

As any sudden change would burden companies, Kim vowed to analyze the new rates' impact depending on companies and industrial sectors and carefully implement the new system.

"We are asking for the government to adjust the night time rate within the range that KEPCO's revenues will remain the same," Kim said, noting it would not lead to raising the electricity bill as a whole.

South Korea has 24 nuclear reactors, which generate about 30 percent of the country's electricity needs, but Seoul has vowed to boost the supply of power from clean and renewable energy sources while reducing reliance on nuclear and coal-fired plants.

Source: Yonhap News Agency