It has been 30 years since I first joined MC, and during that time I have been involved with machinery exports. While technological advances in machinery have improved things like horsepower and precision, the market is not one that changes drastically in just a few years' time; for example, you are not likely to see a two-thirds drop in the price of products, nor a complete switch in the players involved. In new energies though, these things are par for the course. In other words, unless we are always at the forefront of new developments and constantly thirsting for new knowledge, we will not be able to keep up with the changes underway. Instead of following established patterns or approaches, we must look to the future, and always be willing to meet new challenges. Such is the ambition expected of today's professionals, and on that note I think we must look to our young employees to lead the way in new energies. It will be their flexible thinking, keen desire to learn, and challenging spirit that will drive these businesses to succeed. As MC works to build a value chain in new energies, our young employees will be helping to conceive business plans at every stage, from the mining and development of raw materials, to the power generation operations. My role will be to support these plans and encourage innovative, creative ideas.
The solar PV facility in Maura, Portugal covers 250 hectares of land. Its solar panels are laid out systematically to cover a very large area, and have been carefully arranged so as to blend in nicely with the surroundings; the plant seems to exist in harmony with the natural environment. Solar PV business is about effectively using a natural source of energy to supply regions with electrical power over a 20-year period. What makes this business really special though, is that we are not just collaborating with our partners and colleagues, but our planet itself; we are undertaking projects of enormous scale, underpinned by mankind's common goal to realize sustainable societies and a cleaner home for all. But on the other hand, there is a local feel to this business too. To acquire the lands on which to build these facilities, we had to visit one farm after another (negotiating with a group of macho, jovial old farmers in Southern Europe can be a surreal experience!). The contrast between the global scale of this business and its local feel is quite fascinating, and it reminds me of how unique shosha operations really are.
The power plant is located hours from the city by car, where there is nothing else but desert for as far as the eye can see. As you approach, a long line of mirrors comes into view across the horizon, the sunlight reflecting brightly off their polished surfaces. The mirrors have been set up with delicate precision, right in the middle of this scorching and barren wasteland. Their movements are synchronized to follow the sun and capture its rays. They are, without doubt, a remarkable feat of engineering; but looking at them here – juxtaposed by this endless sea of sand and sky – is like gazing upon a fine piece of modern art. CSP Generation is a relatively new field, even by new energy standards. Successes thus far have been few, but the real joy is in the challenge. Exercising my own skills and know how to make a breakthrough is a truly gratifying experience, but working with my colleagues to help make our planet a better place is even better. This business has motivated me to make a lasting impact through my work.
Our current development fund specializes in the development stages of wind power generation projects. It is a business model geared towards increasing added value through development and producing capital gains. Adding more value to a project means having exceptional project management skills; in other words, being able to immediately assess what is needed and when in virtually every facet of the business. From site acquisition, estimation and analysis of wind conditions, and licensing, to the negotiations and signing of contracts, it is essential that we have a thorough grasp of project operations. MC has a wealth of experience in power generation and infrastructure business, and there are many areas where we can apply the know-how gained through these operations. Furthermore, because we can tangibly assess the value added to these projects once development is complete and they are sold off, it can be a very rewarding and motivating business.
I am now in my second year at MC. I chose to work at a shosha because I wanted experience working in new business domains. New energy business is all about the future of our planet, and it is an exciting field to be involved in. Every day I feel that my workplace is helping to make a difference on a global scale – actually changing the world we live in. The young generation is playing a very prevalent role in this business, and there are many young people working at our office and within the industry in general. These people are creating things that have never before existed, and being able to witness that first hand can be very stimulating. I am involved in the import of metallic silicon, which is a raw material used in the production of solar batteries. My work covers payments received, contracts, shipping arrangements, and administrative support. The work motivates me because I am gaining experience in trade, the very origin of sogo shosha business. Every day we communicate with our customers in Japan or local staff in places like Brazil and China, trying to work out how to procure a stable supply of metallic silicon in this constantly changing market. Despite this experience, I feel there is still so much for me to learn. By visiting our frontline operations for myself and helping first-hand to promote greater use of new energies, I hope to quickly refine my skills and someday become an expert in this exciting new field.
Contents Produced in Cooperation with Nikkei Business Online Special / Cross Architects, Inc.