Japanese telecoms provider-turned-solar developer Softbank could be in line to develop as much as 10GW of solar in India, beginning with the state of Andhra Pradesh, according to reports.

News of Softbank’s possible interest emerged after the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu, visited Japan last week. During the visit, Naidu signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for industrial cooperation with the recently appointed head of the Japanese Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Yoichi Miyazawa.

Japan will increase its direct investment in the state under the terms of the MoU, which was signed on Friday. The investment will be into areas including urban development, infrastructure, manufacturing and agriculture, according to METI’s website. METI also announced that Japanese industrial parks would be established in Andhra Pradesh, while the ministry also highlighted that both parties recognised “the need to promote mutual cooperation to expand bilateral collaborative relationship in the energy sector”.

Meanwhile, Indian press, including the Times of India, reported that following his visit, Naidu said Softbank chief executive officer Masayoshi Son had expressed an interest in helping the state install 2.5GW of planned solar projects over the next five years. Andhra Pradesh held an auction for 1GW of PV project tenders in October, at which US thin-film developer First Solar put in the lowest bid. The Times of India reported that Son was also keen to help bring down the cost of Indian solar from R14 (US$0.23) to R6 "per unit" through investment in research and manufacturing, and that Softbank was planning to invest US$10 billion across India. The newspaper reported that Son plans to visit India soon. Other news outlets reported that Softbank’s investment could equate to 10GW of solar development across India in total.

A Softbank spokesman said he was not able to confirm or deny the reports when contacted by PV Tech today.

In related news, Softbank’s power generation division SB Power said in a release at the beginning of this week that it would put into motion the group’s plan to begin retail sales of solar-generated electricity, which it had first announced in February. The company will offer ¥1 (US$0.008) per kilowatt hour over the amount currently offered by utilities, starting in the Kanto region, with plans to eventually roll out the scheme nationally. Reforms of Japan’s electricity retail market have been expected for some time, with major utilities currently also responsible for the country’s grid network as well as electricity sales, leading to criticisms that entrenched regional monopolies have formed. The “unbundling” process of electricity market reform is pencilled in for completion by during 2016.

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