Indians To Get Free Power In 25 Years: Softbank CEO

Author : Odisha Today Bureau | Posted on: 2019-01-18

Softbank's CEO pledges to give India and other solar alliance members free power in 25 years. In a move that is bound to encourage more countries to become members of the International Solar Alliance (ISA). The CEO of Softbank, Masayoshi Son, pledged to provide free solar energy to India and all other members of the Alliance in the next 25 years. Masayoshi Son’s remarks came in the renewable energy conference in New Delhi in the month of October 2018.


In June this year, NHK, a Japanese broadcaster, reported that Softbank has plans to invest up to $100 billion in India’s solar energy sector. The investment will be in addition to a $20 billion deal already signed in 2015, wherein the technology firm agreed to partner with Foxconn and Bharti Enterprises for several solar energy projects.


Softbank’s contracts to supply energy to ISA countries via a power purchasing agreement expire in 2043. Masayoshi Son explained that while the lifespan of solar power projects extends to approximately 80 years, they start operating over 85% of their original capacity just after first five years.


Hence, the bulk of earnings come in the first 25 years and thereafter it would be feasible to provide electricity at dramatically reduced rates or almost free since Softbank would have already recouped its investment. In addition, producing solar power in India is a lot cheaper in comparison to other countries.


The ISA was launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2015 at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris. Headquartered in India, the alliance has invited 121 countries situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to sign up. However, only 70 countries have signed the ISA founding agreement, out of which only 47 have ratified it till date.


Masayoshi Son’s announcement came against the backdrop of an inaugural meeting of the ISA in New Delhi where UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was also in attendance. As part of his keynote speech, Modi said that he envisioned the ISA becoming an energy cartel like the OPEC group in the near future and will significantly impact the way the energy supply chain is under operation internationally.


It is to be noted here that solar power in India is a fast developing industry. The country's solar installed capacity reached 26 GW as of 30 September 2018. India expanded its solar-generation capacity 8 times from 2,650 MW on 26 May 2014 to over 20 GW as on 31 January 2018. The 20 GW capacity was initially targeted for 2022 but the government achieved the target four years ahead of schedule. The country added 3 GW of solar capacity in 2015-2016, 5 GW in 2016-2017 and over 10 GW in 2017-2018, with the average current price of solar electricity dropping to 18% below the average price of its coal-fired counterpart.


In January 2015 the Indian government expanded its solar plans, targeting US$100 billion in investment and 100 GW of solar capacity (including 40 GW from rooftop solar) by 2022. India's initiative of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022 is an ambitious target, since the world's installed solar-power capacity in 2017 is expected to be 303 GW. The improvements in solar thermal storage power technology in recent years has made this task achievable as the cheaper solar power need not depend on costly and polluting coal-based power generation for ensuring stable grid operation.


In addition to its large-scale grid-connected solar PV initiative, India is developing off-grid solar power for local energy needs. Solar products have increasingly helped to meet rural needs; by the end of 2015 just under one million solar lanterns were sold in the country, reducing the need for kerosene. That year, 118,700 solar home lighting systems were installed and 46,655 solar street lighting installations were provided under a national program and a just over 1.4 million solar cookers were distributed in India.


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