Softbank’s Masayoshi Son promises free solar power
Son offers free electricity to ISA countries, including India, after its 25-year deal ends
New Delhi: In what may be a watershed moment for the global clean energy economy, SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son on Wednesday offered to supply free electricity to International Solar Alliance (ISA) member-countries including India, once its contracts to supply power in these countries expire after 25 years.
“I promise to provide free power to India as well as other ISA member countries after 25 years of PPA (power purchase agreement). This is my effort to provide equal opportunities to everyone,” Son, who has written multi-billion dollar cheques in India, said at the second RE-Invest conference in Greater Noida.
With the life span of a solar power project extending over 80 years, Son added that after a decline in the capacity in the first five years, it generates electricity at 85% for the rest of its project life.
This comes against the backdrop of the first general assembly of ISA’s focus on ‘universalizing’ the membership of the first treaty-based international government organization headquartered in India and making all UN members eligible for ISA membership.
Such a move could help induct countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, Nepal and Afghanistan, who have shown interest in becoming ISA members. While 70 countries are signatories to the ISA framework agreement, 44 have ratified it.
Initially, ISA envisaged 121 ‘sunshine countries’ situated between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn as its members.
SoftBank-owned SB Energy has been active in India’s emerging clean economy.
Son added that the cost of solar power generation is much cheaper in India as compared to the rest of the world.
India has registered a record low solar tariff of ₹2.44 per unit. Son’s announcement assumes importance given India’s clean energy push, with India’s ambitious target of 175 gigawatts (GW) by March 2022.
Of this 100GW is to come from solar. Also, cheap solar power has helped bringing electricity to the poor.
The National Democratic Alliance government has set a target to achieve universal household electrification by 31 March 2019.
The Japanese conglomerate, which started investing in India in 2011, has picked up stakes in several consumer internet companies in India and in the process, made unicorns out of several of them. SoftBank’s investment portfolio in India include companies such as Flipkart, Ola, Paytm, Snapdeal, Oyo Rooms, InMobi and others.
According to private equity tracker, Venture Intelligence, SoftBank has so far done 24 deals since 2011 in India, committing more than $7 billion.
In August 2017, SoftBank wrote its largest cheque in India till date, when it invested $2.5 billion in e-commerce major Flipkart.
It is also selling its entire 21% stake in Flipkart to Walmart Inc. in a deal that values the Indian e-commerce firm at $22 billion. India has emerged as the most favourable destination for renewable energy with around $42 billion invested in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday.
Over the next four years, the green energy sector has a business potential of around $70-$80 billion, he said.
Son also spoke about battery storage becoming affordable. Solar power generated during the day needs to be stored in batteries.
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