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AseanAffairs Magazine September - October 2011





This year has seen increasing climate change disasters throughout the world.

In the cover story of this edition, Asean Affairs takes a look at the issues and possible solutions to reduce the costly

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 Masayoshi Son, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Japan’s Softbank, is making a strong case for Japan to develop renewable energy following the Fukushima nuclear disaster earlier this year
Following the recent nuclear power disaster that occurred in Japan earlier this year Son has decided to support relief efforts by donating 10 billion yen (US$130.2 million) and his remaining salary as president of the company from 2011 until his retirement, renewable energy has taken a prominent place on Son’s agenda.

In mid-September he launched the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation. To start this effort, Son has invested 1 billion yen (US$13 million) of his own money (his fortune is estimated at around $8 billion) and says that his company will invest between 10 and 20 billion yen over the next several years.

“Japan is a country that is riddled by earthquakes,” Son said at a conference hall in central Tokyo. “We must minimize our use of nuclear power over the next 20 years.”

He adds that the goal of the foundation will be to move Japan from its current heavy reliance on nuclear power to an infrastructure that meets 60 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030. To meet that goal, he says, investments of some 2 trillion yen per year will be needed. He is calling on both the government and other businesses to join him in his ambitious venture.

Softbank, Japan’s No.3 mobile phone operator, will reinvest any returns on the investment into renewable energy sources for 40 years, Son said.

In August Japan passed a bill to promote investment in renewable energy sources by requiring utilities to buy electricity from solar and other renewable sources, which could help new forays into the country’s insular power business.

But key details, such as the price at which utilities will be required to buy power, and whether or not utilities can refuse to buy, remain undecided.

Son promised to invest in ventures that backed renewable energy and called for opening up Japan’s power industry to allow for more competition. More openness would lead to opportunities for new players like Son, who has made his fortune by forcing into the formerly tightly run business realms of Internet providers and mobile operators.

Son also said that to make renewable energy a viable and stable source of power over the long term, Japan needs to spearhead the creation of an Asia-wide smart grid, linked via undersea cables, connecting different energy sources and users.

Son said the 2,000 kilometer (1,200 mile) nationwide power grid he proposed could eventually be expanded to all of Asia, in a massive grid that would run 36,000 kilometers and link Japan with countries including India, China, and Russia.

“I am tired of hearing what can’t be done,” Son said. “This (pan- Asia smart-grid network) may take 20 to 30 years. But I think it’s clear to the people what needs to be done...............

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