Softbank President Discusses 'asia Super Grid'

Softbank President Discusses 'Asia Super Grid'Masayoshi Son, chair of Renewable Energy Institute (president of the Softbank group), delivered a lecture at a symposium to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the institute and disclosed the current status of the "Asia Super Grid Plan" Sept 9, 2016.

In regard to its renewable energy-based power generation business, Softbank has been steadily making progress. Currently, SB Energy Corp, a subsidiary of Softbank, runs 33 solar/wind power plants in Japan. Softbank is also developing renewable energy-based power plants in Mongolia, which is more suited for wind power generation than Japan, and in India, which is suited for solar power generation.

In Mongolia, Softbank obtained a permission to use land on which 70GW of wind power plants can be built for 100 years and has already developed small-scale wind power plants. In India, it developed a 350MW solar power plant, planning to build 20GW of solar power plants in the country.

"Probably, we will develop the world's largest-scale solar power plant in India," Son said.

Along with the development of renewable energy-based power plants outside Japan, the Asia Super Grid Plan started to be realized.

Meeting with former chair of State Grid Corp of China

The turning point was when Son met Liu Zhenya, former chair of State Grid Corp of China (SGCC), in January 2016. Son found that Zhenya had a similar plan, and they became kindred spirits right away, Son said.

Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) and OAO Rosseti (a power distribution firm based in Russia), which Son and Zhenya approached, showed interest. And the four companies singed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for researches and project planning in the aim of promoting the cross-border connection of power grids in March 2016.

They are currently considering two routes. One connects Mongolia and Japan via China and South Korea. The other runs through Russia. Son refers to the two routes as "Golden Ring."

Two-thirds of the world population is living in Asia. And the four countries in which the four companies are based account for 76% of the electricity generated in Asia and 77% of the electricity consumed in Asia.

"If two power networks connecting the four countries with the Golden Ring are realized, it will shed light on global energy issues," Son said.

For the Asia Super Grid Plan, as a starter, Softbank examined whether it is technically possible and feasible as a business. And it has already confirmed that the plan is technically possible. Though only interim results were obtained for the business feasibility, it began to seem profitable, he said.

"With any of the two routes, it seems certain that the cost of electricity transmitted from wind power plants and so forth in Mongolia will be lower than 10.5 cents, which is the cost of coal-fired power generation in Japan," Son said, though the number is still being calculated and has not been finalized yet.

The cost of power transmission with the route running through Russia was calculated on the premise that electricity generated by hydraulic power plants in Russia is transmitted to Japan via a power grid in Russia and submarine cables.

"Renewable energy has advantages of being clean (secure) and safe but is unstable and high in cost," Son said. "However, by transmitting renewable energy generated in other countries, it is now likely to change from unstable, high-cost energy to stable, low-cost energy."