[EDITOIRALS]Utility Rates Unrealistic

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[EDITOIRALS]Utility Rates Unrealistic

Amid the scorching heat wave, Koreans have also been suffering from the unreasonable financial burden of rising electricity charges. Some Koreans have said that they fear turning on their air conditioners during the so-called "tropical nights." Upon receiving unusually high electric bills, others have rushed to lodge complaints against the Korea Electric Power Corp.

The uproar over high utility bills has been expected ever since the the power company raised rates last year. When the power company hiked rates for industrial and agricultural electric usage, a new progressive rate system also was applied to households. The Korean Electric Power Corp. estimates the average power use of a household to be 300 kilowatt-hours and the utility has billed 20 to 40 percent higher charges to homes that used more than the average amount. An ordinary family uses about 200 kilowatt-hours per month for using a refrigerator and television sets. Therefore, it is not surprising that electric charges have shot up because the meter easily climbs to 300 kilowatt-hours when someone turns on a heater or air conditioner.

We understand the government's intention to promote energy saving. During this summer, power demands for air cooling have jumped and the government has had to run nine additional nuclear reactors in the peak season of August only. Yet the newly adopted progressive rate system is a problem because the average amount determining the additional charge was estimated too low. Under this new rate system, most middle-class households have to pay unreasonably high bills.

The current electrical rate system is full of discrepancies. The utility company charges agricultural and industrial users for power at a price that is nearly twice as low as households pay. It also is difficult to understand why the government advocates energy saving by applying such a progressive rate to households, but not to entertainment businesses such as motels, bars and hostess clubs.

Any rate system that fails to be realistic should be revised as soon as possible. In this depressing world, can't we at least turn on the air conditioner during the summer?
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