TOKYO -- Japan's SoftBank Group will give residential customers the option to buy electricity generated nearly 60% from renewable sources, at prices comparable with those charged by regional utilities.
The company looks to appeal to those who care about the environment, in addition to how much they pay for power, foreshadowing a possible trend among residential consumers who will have greater freedom of choice when the retail electricity market becomes fully deregulated next month.
"We're looking to capture the demand for clean energy," Hajime Baba, president of subsidiary SB Power, told reporters in Sapporo on Monday.
The unit will begin offering the renewables-heavy plan next month in the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, and in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, eventually taking it nationwide. Discounts on wireless and fixed-line telephone charges will be available for customers who bundle these services with their electric supply.
Customers in most areas will have a choice of renewable-energy and nonrenewable plans. The former may prove pricier depending on their electricity use.
SoftBank has 31 renewable-energy sites in Japan, including facilities under construction. This totals roughly 500,000kW of generating capacity, enough to supply about 200,000 households. The nonrenewable component of the new plan will consist of power sourced from other providers.
Startups are also moving to fill the space created as the government seeks to raise Japan's reliance on renewable energy from 3% of output to about 15% by 2030. One such venture, Tokyo-based Looop, plans to sell electricity from 1,500 solar panel installations to retail customers in Kanto and the greater Osaka and Nagoya regions.
Residential customers in Japan likely will have a greater choice of electricity sources in the coming years, as those in Germany already do. But solar and other renewable sources entail higher generating costs than conventional ones. Cost-saving innovations will be needed to reduce power prices while increasing reliance on clean energy.