SoftBank’s Son offers free solar power to ISA countries post expiry of 25-year contract

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son
Billionaire Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Group Corp., speaks at SoftBank World 2017 event in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

In what may be an Uber moment for 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 the contract to supply power expires after 25 years.

Speaking at the second Re-Invest conference at Greater Noida, Son said: “SoftBank offers free power from solar power projects after a Power Purchase Agreement of 25 years.”

With the lifecycle span of a solar power project extending over 80 years, Son added that after a decline in the capacity over the first five years, it generates electricity at 85% for the rest of its project life.

This comes in the backdrop of the ISA’s focus on ‘universalising’ the membership for the first treaty-based international government organisation headquartered in India and making all United Nations members eligible for ISA membership.

Such a move will also help in the induction of countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, Nepal and Afghanistan. While 70 countries are signatories to the ISA framework agreement, 44 have ratified it.

SBG Cleantech, a joint venture between Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp., India’s Bharti Enterprises Ltd and Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Co. Ltd, has been active in India’s emerging clean economy.

The cost of solar power generation was much cheaper in India compared to the rest of the world, Son added.

India registered record low solar power price of Rs 2.44 per unit. Son’s announcement assumes importance given India’s clean energy push, with the country setting an ambitious target of 175 gigawatt (GW) by March 2022. Of this 100 GW is to come from solar. Also, cheap solar power has helped in 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, picked up stakes in several consumer Internet companies in India. 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 done 24 deals since 2011 in India, committing more than $7 billion.

In August 2017, SoftBank wrote its largest cheque in India to 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 emerged as the most favourable investment destination for renewable energy companies, with commitments of around $42 billion, 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.

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