Utility venture to promote cheaper electricity payments via bitcoin

A bitcoin startup plans to join Japan’s growing ranks of power utilities and accept the cryptocurrency as payment for electricity charges, promising bills four to six percent cheaper than the competition.

ResuPress Inc., a Tokyo-based startup that runs a bitcoin exchange and storage service known as Coincheck, said it will also accept payment in yen and offer small bitcoin rebates to encourage use of the volatile currency.

“The use of bitcoin has been growing rapidly worldwide, but there are few places in Japan where you can spend it yet,” said ResuPress chief Koichiro Wada.

The service will be launched in November and will be the first in Japan to let clients pay off their bills with bitcoin, the firm said.

He said he believes the utility initiative will be a big step toward winning wider public acceptance of bitcoin.

ResuPress is teaming up with Mitsuwa Sangyo Co., a Tokyo-based seller of propane gas, to provide power generated by Marubeni Power Retail Corp.

The startup will offer two payment plans. The first, which targets bitcoin newcomers and light users, will accept payment in yen and deliver a rebate of four to six percent paid in bitcoin.

ResuPress said this will help doubters get a taste of the cryptocurrency.

The second plan is for dedicated bitcoin users, allowing them to pay their bills with bitcoin rather than yen.

ResuPress said the service will initially be rolled out in Kanto, Kansai and Chubu and that it is targeting 10,000 customers in the first year.

Bitcoin operators are aware of the negative image bitcoin has developed since the Mt. Gox fiasco in 2014 and other hacking events, but they are hopeful its use will recover.

They said a new law enacted this year to regulate bitcoin exchanges like Mt. Gox, which was operating in a virtual Wild West at the time its losses came to light, will help improve confidence, with the Financial Services Agency acting as the industry’s watchdog.

The law recognizes the cryptocurrency as akin to money, giving it “asset-like value.”

Bitcoin transactions take place via a peer-to-peer network that connects users’ computers directly. Transfers are almost free of charge, and to receive bitcoin, one merely needs a bitcoin “wallet,” in the form of a smartphone app.

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