JAPAN | Softbank’s Son, governors launch group to push for green energy

Posted on July 13, 2011


JAPAN | MAINICHI | 13 July 2011

AKITA (Kyodo) — Masayoshi Son, president of telecom conglomerate Softbank Corp., and governors from prefectures across Japan launched a council Wednesday aimed at reducing dependence on nuclear power by promoting the use of renewable energy, such as building solar power plants on idle farmland.

Of Japan’s 47 prefectures, 36 have already signed up to join the alliance led by Son, including Fukushima, which is grappling with Japan’s worst nuclear crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Also participating are Aichi, Shizuoka, Mie and Nagano, which recently lost power supply from the Hamaoka nuclear plant that was suspended at the government’s request due to its potential vulnerability to tsunami.

The council’s first meeting Wednesday came after Son unveiled in May an 80 billion yen project to build about 10 large-scale solar power plants in Japan, offering to shoulder most of the construction costs.

He has said setting up solar panels on 20 percent of unused or abandoned farmland in Japan can have the generation capacity of about 50 gigawatts, equivalent to the output of about 50 nuclear reactors.

By aiming also to introduce other energy sources such as wind and geothermal power by 2020, Son envisions raising the share of renewable energy in Japan to about 20 percent of total electricity generation.

For the council’s plans to be realized, it is crucial that parliament passes a bill obliging utilities to buy electricity generated by renewable energy.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has shown strong resolve to do so, but enactment remains uncertain due to the deep-rooted confrontation between the ruling and opposition camps, as well as strong opposition from industry over fears of rate hikes.

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