Head of green energy group eager to make impact in Japan

All it took was dinner, and Sweden’s Tomas Kaberger found himself with a new gig.

The former director-general of the Swedish Energy Agency assumed the top post at the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation this summer after being persuaded at a dinner in June by a friend associated with the foundation to take the position.

Softbank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son invested 1 billion yen ($13 million) to set up the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, an organization that will promote alternative renewable energy resources such as solar power and wind power.

“I want you to take the job so that nuclear power plant accidents will never happen again in Japan,” Son told Kaberger in a phone call in July.

Kaberger still had more than two years to go in his tenure at the Swedish Energy Agency, but he resigned in August because, given the current climate in Japan, he felt he could make a big difference.

Since he was boy, Kaberger had a strong interest in ecology and the natural sciences. He went on to study nuclear engineering in college.

While expanding his scope of study to biomass and environmental economics, he built a network of connections among people in civic movements and environmental businesses.

Tomas Kåberger

When he was with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, a nongovernmental organization, he urged the government to spread the use of “ecolabels,” stickers used to identify environmentally friendly food and consumer products. Kaberger also urged the government to permanently shut down nuclear power plants whose operations were suspended due to inspections.

Kaberger visited Japan several times since the 1990s and met with people in the electric power industry and those related to nonprofit organizations.

He often said in his visits that Japan’s move toward alternative energy resources has been too slow compared to many countries in the world that are rapidly adapting to natural energy resources.

As the new executive board chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, Kabeger plans to visit Japan five or six times a year.

“I want to discuss (energy issues) with Diet members and officials in charge of energy policy,” he said.

At the inauguration of the foundation on Sept. 12, Son said Japan could shift to renewable energy sources for 60 percent of its electricity requirements by 2030.

He also proposed that a high-voltage direct current “super grid,” containing 2,000 kilometers of undersea electricity cables, should be constructed with an investment of 2 trillion yen.


Asahi Shimbun, Sep. 13, 2011. http://ajw.asahi.com/article//economy/AJ201109130245