Sixth Ideathon: Ken Isono, Representative Director, Shizen Energy Inc.
The Sixth Ideathon held Wednesday, November 21, welcomed as guest speaker Mr. Ken Isono, Representative Director of Shizen Energy.
After graduating from university, Mr. Isono joined Recruit Co., Ltd. where he worked in the advertising sales department. Later, he joined a wind power company, where he worked in development, construction, and maintenance of wind power plants across Japan. His primary duties include new business development.
He graduated from the Department of Environmental Information at Keio University and holds MBAs from Columbia Business School and the London Business School.
Inspiration for founding Shizen Energy
Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accompanying nuclear power plant accident in 2011, Mr. Isono became convinced of the need to make greater use of natural energy sources. He founded Shizen Energy in June 2011 to apply the lessons gained from the disaster's aftermath. Shizen Energy is involved in a wide range of businesses related to natural energy, from planning and development to fundraising for the construction of new natural energy power plants and related design, machinery procurement, construction, operations management, and electricity sales and support.
Today, seven years after its founding, Shizen Energy employs more than 190 people, most in their 20s and 30s, including employees from some 30 countries around the world. As a whole, the Shizen Energy Group has built more than 60 power plants across Japan. These facilities generate about one gigawatt of power—equivalent to one nuclear reactor. The company is also involved in projects in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brazil.
Everything it does is for the future
Based on its slogan—Work for the future, not for investors—Shizen Energy operates under three main business policies.
① No IPO
The company has chosen not to list its shares. Doing so could impede its efforts to deliver solutions to society's issues from a long-term perspective by encouraging it to act on behalf of investors.
② Over 1 GW development/assets under management over 400 m EURO (2018)
Building power plants takes vast funds. For this reason, Shizen Energy has concluded a capital and business joint venture with Tokyo Gas, Japan's largest public utility, and operates an infrastructure fund through another joint venture with KENEDIX, Japan's largest real-estate investment fund.
③ Partnership with dominant players
Establishing a joint venture with Juwi, an EPC firm that happens to be among the world's leading developers, gives Shizen Energy access to state-of-the-art knowledge and purchasing networks.
Shizen Energy's staff includes employees from some 20 countries. The company strives to hire and promote human resources without regard to age or nationality.
Shizen Energy is currently moving forward with a solar-power project in Brazil, where it has established a subsidiary. Its ultimate goal is to do business in all 196 countries of the world.
At the same time, recognizing the importance of doing business based on the same perspectives as the members of particular communities, Shizen Energy understands it must deploy a wide range of businesses, without being bound to specific industries. As part of these efforts, it is involved in “1% for community” initiatives in the cities of Koshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, and Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, where it donates about 1% of revenues from its power plants to initiatives that benefit the community.
In addition, while pursuing capital investments in the agricultural infrastructure, Shizen Energy is also advancing product development based on local agricultural produce. This is intended to increase name recognition for producer areas through media coverage of products made using local produce.
Another unique initiative is the company's partnership with the Chain Museum, an attempt to make use of wind power plants as venues for art. This recognition of diverse values is sure to contribute to its natural energy initiatives around the world.
Current conditions in Japan and initiatives of global firms
Some 30% of the world's industrial energy comes from natural energy sources and this percentage is forecast to surpass 60% in 2040. However, in Japan, which depends on thermoelectric and nuclear power, natural energy accounts for a mere 10% share. Conditions regarding the promotion of natural energy lags far behind other countries, prompting charges in certain circles that Japan is as an underdeveloped country in terms of environmental measures.
The cost of solar power has fallen dramatically, to about one-tenth the costs of 10 years ago. This has significantly reduced cost-related barriers to entry. Use of natural energy is accelerating worldwide. Unfortunately, Japan has yet to respond to the changes in the pricing environment. At the same time, the United States has announced that it will focus on wind power in the future.
RE100 is another current major worldwide trend. The term refers to private-sector firms targeting use of 100% natural energy no later than 2050 as part of efforts to combat global warming. Global firms such as Apple and Google, which purchase large volumes of electricity, and Japan's Softbank are making energetic efforts to move forward with RE100 initiatives.
Natural electric power initiative in the town of Obuse
Nagano Denryoku, a joint venture project intended to realize local production and local consumption of electricity in partnership with local businesses and the town of Obuse—a town in Nagano Prefecture of about 10,000 residents, known as an artists' community and reputed to be where Katsushika Hokusai spent his later years—was established in August 2018 and initiated sales of electricity in November of that year. Plans call for the deployment of not just the natural energy business through local production and local consumption of electricity, but a living-infrastructure services business to resolve issues specific to the local community.
In the Q&A session following his keynote speech, after describing his vision to make Shizen Energy a company along the lines of SFC, Mr. Isono spoke enthusiastically about how the company will continue to challenge the dark areas of contemporary Japanese society and the logic of capitalism.
The program's next guest is Masaru Imoto, CEO of Standard Transaction Co., Ltd.