Softbank's Son eyes wind power, geothermal

TOKYO Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:59am EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder of Japanese telecom firm Softbank Corp, said wind and geothermal power will likely be key components of his new power generation business, along with solar power.

"Globally, wind power in particular has very good cost performance," Son said Monday on the sidelines of a symposium held at the launch of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, which he founded.

Son, who put in 1 billion yen of his own money to create the foundation in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis, said Softbank will invest 10 to 20 billion yen ($129-$257 million) in the new business that it aims to set up by the spring of 2012.

Softbank, Japan's No.3 mobile phone operator and distributor of Apple Inc's iPhone in Japan, will reinvest any returns on the investment into renewable energy sources for 40 years, Son said.

Son is also seeking partners to help seed project finance money of several hundreds of billions of yen.

Japan last month 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 said the lack of clarity made it difficult to approach potential investors.

"(And) If the utilities can refuse to buy, the (push for renewables) will not grow at all."

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.

"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."

$1 = 77.750 Japanese Yen)

(Reporting by Mayumi Negishi; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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