'asia Super Grid' Eyed By Softbank Boss Takes Embryonic Step

'Asia Super Grid' eyed by Softbank boss takes embryonic stepSoftbank Group Corp.'s hopes of building a cross-border power grid in Northeast Asia got a welcome nod March 30 when a feasibility study was agreed in Beijing.

SBG, along with State Grid Corp. of China, Russia’s power transmission and distribution company PJSC Rosseti and Korea Electric Power Corp. of South Korea, hopes the grid fired by renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power will be operating by around 2020.

Heads of the four firms met at a conference in Beijing hosted by State Grid, the largest power transmission company in China, and agreed to think about pilot projects and power transmission routes.

SBG entered the renewable energy market after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.

SBG Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son proposed the “Asia Super Grid” plan linking East Asian countries under the banner of “break with nuclear power generation.”

The program intends to stabilize the supply of renewable energy through international interchange and reduce electricity rates in the participating countries.

Son recalled the time when he unveiled the Asia Super Grid plan in an exclusive interview March 30 with The Asahi Shimbun. It attracted harsh criticism at the time.

“Although I ‘talked through my hat’ by declaring the initiative four years ago and was severely denounced by many people saying that it was ‘unfeasible,’ that far-fetched project can advance if it is reasonable,” Son said.

“It is believed that ‘the supplies of renewable energy are unstable’ because wind power requires the wind to blow and solar power cannot produce electricity at night. To solve the problem, however, we should interchange renewable energy internationally.”

After assessing the feasibility of the plan, the firms will confirm the support of each national government. The firms will also set up a nonprofit research organization made up of companies, universities and research institutions to conduct feasibility studies.

SBG has already leased a huge plot of land the size of one entire Tokyo in the Gobi desert in Mongolia where it plans to generate electricity from wind power next year.

That electricity, however, can only be consumed within the country for the time being.

If the latest agreement leads to the implementation of the plan, Son said, undersea cables will be installed between Japan, China and South Korea with investment worth hundreds of billions of yen.

Then, Son added, it would be “sufficiently feasible” that the electricity produced in Mongolia could be sold at substantially reduced rates in Japan.