When a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, hitting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and triggering one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, the government decided to accelerate its move toward green energy.
One man probably didn’t realize at the time, just what an effect that chain of events would have on his future.
Hisafumi Manabe, a highly respected member of the Marubeni Corporation at that time, was tasked to help position the conglomerate as a front-runner in renewable energy alternatives.
He was seen as the perfect fit for the feat given his extensive experience in the IT, telecommunications and construction industries at Marubeni since 1998, which also gifted him with an impressive network of contacts, from Silicon Valley to the Middle East.
“It was a really difficult time,” Manabe recalls of the events of 2011. “With the power plant portfolio, Japan shut down all the nuclear plants and shifted to renewable energies. So, at that time I moved to the power division [of Marubeni] to head the Smart Grid.
“The Smart Grid is a combination of power, energy and information technologies, and with my background in the IT and communication business fields, they thought I could be an asset.”
After taking over the renewable generation department in 2016, Manabe successfully spearheaded the transition to solar and mini-hydro energy thanks to his shrewd leadership skills and detailed knowledge.
Manabe took the President and CEO positions for a new strategic company, Marubeni Offshore Wind Development Corporation, within Marubeni in 2020, paving the way for it to become a global leader in the offshore wind field.
Part of this was recruiting an elite team of engineers and stakeholder managers, as well as building relationships with key partners and contractors.
Speaking to The CEO Magazine from his Tokyo base, one year after beginning the commercial operation of the company’s (and Japan’s) first large-scale offshore wind development at Noshiro in Akita, Manabe says, “We are committed to expand the offshore wind business globally and contribute to Net-Zero GHG Emissions by 2050.”
Having begun construction on this wind farm just before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Manabe reveals there were many hurdles to overcome with transporting materials and workers during the implementation phase.
“All the immigration ports and airports were shut down, but thanks to strong relationships with our very capable partners and suppliers, we managed to overcome these challenges,” he says.
“So, it makes me very proud to say that the timing of the final commercial operation is almost exactly as it was originally scheduled, and we have completed the project delivery almost on time. This was a great achievement not only for us but also the entire wind industry in Japan. These are first-of-their-kinds projects and we could not fail as an industry leader.”
Setting his sights further afield, Manabe reveals his excitement over the company’s grandest project to date.
“We are developing one of the largest floating wind projects in the world off Scotland,” he reveals. “It is going to be 3.6 gigawatts with 200 turbines to be installed. This gigawatt scale is a totally different game.”
The partnership with Scottish renewable energy developer SSE Renewables and Danish fund management company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners has a three-phase timeline with financial growth the first target for the next mid-year plan.
The completion of the megastructure would consolidate Marubeni Offshore Wind Development as a preeminent global developer in renewable energy, and Manabe as a generational changemaking leader.
“We are committed to expanding the offshore wind business globally and contribute to Net-Zero GHG Emissions by 2050, and we are also focused on low-carbon and decarbonization for our long-term vision on climate change,” he adds.