SoftBank in 20 gigawatts through solar power and wind energy in India

Japan’s SoftBank will team up with Taiwan’s Foxconn and Bharti Enterprises to invest $20 billion in solar power projects in India, as the country ramps up its clean energy sector, the companies announced Monday.

Mobile phone operator SoftBank said the venture aimed to generate 20 gigawatts of energy through solar and wind power plants across coal-reliant India, up from the country’s 4.1 gigawatts of current capacity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to expand clean energy to 100 gigawatts by 2022 to slash India’s crippling power blackouts as well as bring electricity to the 300 million people currently without power.

India relies heavily on polluting coal power plants for about 60 per cent of its electricity.

“With this partnership, our goal is to create a market-leading clean energy company, to fuel India’s growth with clean and renewable sources of energy,” SoftBank’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son said in a press release.

Son said his company would help manufacture solar equipment in India for the project, adding that SoftBank has invested $1 billion in the country in the last nine months.

“The sunshine in India is twice that of Japan. Cost of land and labour and maintenance is also half that of Japan. So then, the efficiency of generation solar power is likely to be four times compared to that in Japan,” he also told the CNBC TV18 channel.

Son said the timeline for investments by the venture, a newly formed company called SBG Cleantech, would depend on negotiations with authorities as well as buying land needed for the power plants.

SoftBank is among companies developing solar plants in Japan in the wake of that country’s Fukushima nuclear power disaster in 2011.

Son made the announcement in New Delhi flanked by Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises, India’s biggest wireless provider.

Foxconn founder Terry Gou, whose company is best known for manufacturing Apple iPhones, said in the statement his firm was “committed to fulfilling our social and environmental responsibilities”.

Foxconn reportedly started investing in building solar panels several years ago.

The falling cost of solar power globally has triggered investment interest in India where Modi has made it a priority.

Modi has insisted that his commitment to ramping up India’s renewable energy supplies is not aimed at “impressing the world” following international pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions.