In order to shift his efforts towards renewable energy, Mr. Isono left the Recruit Group in 2006 and joined a wind power company. At the time, there was still little to no recognition of, or demand for, renewable energy in Japan, despite it being viewed as an industry of major social and economic value in Europe and other parts of the world.
"Renewable energy can make immense contributions towards solving environmental problems, because the greater the sales, the greater the reductions in CO2 emissions, so for me it really seemed like a dream job. But, when the Japanese government repealed the introduction of renewable energy in 2008, I started to question it as a viable choice. And then the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake happened. This disaster brought many issues into sharp relief, one of course being the question of nuclear power. The world was full of debate about Japan's energy woes, but the one thing that really stuck out in my mind was that everyone was trying to find someone to blame. At the same time, I also felt that in this situation the only thing to do was work together to solve the problem. It takes 20 years to set up and operate a power plant, so you can't make a business of it unless you're taking everything over at least that 20-year span into consideration. I was 30 at the time, so when I thought about how I would be 50 in 20 years, and then 70 in another 20 years after that, I just knew that we had to solve this energy problem within our generation. That's what inspired me to start the Shizen Energy Group. I even got the crazy idea that we were, in fact, the only ones who could solve the energy problem (laughs). But as luck would have it, our smaller scale meant we could work quickly and decisively. We also got really fortunate with our first client. Despite us having no real achievements to our name yet, they commissioned us for a 600-million JPY project. We were truly blessed to encounter people who understood our mission."
We went to learn in Germany, one of the global leaders in natural energy
In 2013, the Shizen Energy Group teamed up with German company Juwi, who have built 150 wind power generators with an output of nearly 2,000 megawatts, as well as 1,600 solar power plants with a total output of nearly 2,200 megawatts, to launch the international joint venture "Juwi Shizen Energy".
A dinner with some of the Juwi team who came to Japan
"Even though we said we were going to run a renewable energy business in Japan, the fact of the matter is we didn't have any of the relevant knowhow to do so. We had all sorts of problems, like the blades on the propellers of our wind power generators breaking. And the main reason for all of this was our lack of experience. So, we decided to go study in Germany, one of the leading countries in the field. Though we didn't even really know anyone in Germany at the time, all three of us founders headed off together to see things firsthand, renting a car and sharing a hotel room as we went to each of our destinations. I think perhaps I learned to take action like that during my time at Recruit.
juwi was one of the several companies we visited during our trip. Thinking back on it now, it really was a miracle that we got to meet them. At the time, their revenue was over 150 trillion JPY, whereas we had only 3 million JPY in capital and revenue of practically zero. Despite this, we explained to juwi our desire to learn and our philosophy, and as a result we created a fifty-fifty joint venture together. What made this all possible is hope. That, and we all shared a lot of interests outside of work as fellow outdoorsmen. We still enjoy a sort of rich relationship with them like that of lifelong friends. They, too, have said that this joint venture is the greatest success of their lives. It makes me extremely happy to have found comrades out there in the world with whom we could build such a trusting connection. At the time no one wanted to hear us out or understood us, so to be where we're at now is truly miraculous in my mind."