Interview – Tomofumi Oono, Geothermal Development Co., Japan

Tomofumi Oono, GPSS, Japan (source: Mira Error)
Alexander Richter 27 Jul 2020

In an interview to a local student publication in Japan, President and COO of Geothermal Development & Investment Co shares details on his company's beginning in the geothermal business in Japan.

In an interview in a Student publicationin Japan, Tomofumi Oono, President of Japanese Geothermal Development & Investment Inc. shares his experience and background in the company.

Failure in Action” Risk Management is the Key to Success” – Interview with Yuji Ohno, Geothermal Development Co., Ltd. President and COO in MiraError.

Profile Tomofumi Oono (Yuji Ohno), Geothermal Development Co., Ltd. President and COO

Born in Hyogo prefecture. After graduating from Keio University Faculty of Economics, joined the Space Development Agency (now JAXA) and was involved in space development. After that, he joined his current position, Geothermal Development Co., Ltd. Leading the geothermal development business from the beginning to the present. In this interview, we talked about how Geothermal Development Co., Ltd. became a company that develops the geothermal power generation business while placing the most importance on contributing to the community, along with the thoughts that Mr. Ohno cherished.

Geothermal development with local communities

First of all, could you talk about the business contents of Geothermal Development Co., Ltd., which you operate?

Geothermal Development Co., Ltd. constructs a power plant by investing in a geothermal power generation project and investing in underground resources and securing resources through excavation management in joint projects with the region. We are also constructing a power plant that utilizes steam from an existing hot spring. In addition, we also import and sell overseas power generators and various equipment.

Our company belongs to the GPSS group. The GPSS Group is engaged in a power generation business using five power sources: solar power, geothermal power, wind power, small and medium-sized hydro power, and biogas, and is drawing attention as a group company that contributes to the realization of a sustainable society. Currently, foreign national staff are working throughout the group, and the opinions of people with diverse ideas flock to each other, and the company has the depth to tackle issues from multiple perspectives.

We are aiming for a safe and stable 100% sustainable energy society by realizing “grid parity (*)” using purely domestic energy without relying on conventional imported resources.

*Grid parity: The cost of generating electricity from sustainable energy will be less than or equal to the cost of existing electricity.

Why did you focus on “geotherm” from the many renewable energy sources?

Japan is a country with poor resources such as oil and natural gas, but boasts the third largest geothermal resource in the world in terms of geothermal resources. However, it is ranked 11th in terms of installed capacity, and despite the fact that it has resources, it is currently underutilized.

One of the causes is the environment. Many of the places with a large amount of geothermal resources are areas rich in nature and tourist spots, and strict regulations are imposed on development.

By making effective use of abundant resources and creating a mechanism that can be returned to the local people, we aim to create a world in which all Japanese people including the local people are happy. I came to

Trust gained by being based on our philosophy

What kind of mistake did you make when you started your business?

After spending a total of 9 months from the time before the company was founded, we created a corporate philosophy of “to realize its value with local stakeholders by using unused resources in the area” and set it up first. We asked who the geothermal resources belong to and defined them as commons in the region. By making local resources into pure domestic energy and economic value based on it through joint projects, it is possible to realize profits for oneself and society simultaneously and in the same direction.

[… I tought we did everything right], but the reality was not so sweet. It was rumoured that “[we were] a common worshiper’s gang on the boom of geothermal development,” and even more sad was some unhearted people who did not accept new entrants from other industries. There were even rumours that there was no basis for [us as a company in the market]. Although we intend to tackle it with a sense of mission, it was extremely difficult for us to differentiate ourselves from other vendors and gain an understanding of our new business model, despite our lack of experience and achievements.

But we weren’t the ones who would be discouraged there. With the philosophy in mind, “Geothermal is a local resource, so local people should take the greatest benefit. However, it is difficult for local people to develop geothermal power from scratch. Therefore, we would like to contribute to the region by working on the development with our expertise and creating local resources together with everyone in the region,” he explained in a pilgrimage throughout Japan.

Gradually, the number of people who understand our values ??gradually increased, the joint business became understood [and known], and the number of development projects increased. I think that the people around me wanted to do business with us because there was a trust based on the philosophy and a concrete mechanism that made it possible.

What did you learn from your mistakes?

If you take any action, failure will follow. Therefore, risk management is important. Originally, I was a type of person who decided once and decided to go forward, but by learning a lot from geothermal business and seeing from a broad perspective, what is the purpose, what is the risk, what is the reward I came to think and act. As a result, it is possible to prevent risks from occurring and manage them as a result.

Is it impossible to get rewards while avoiding risks?

It would be best if we could do that, but the reality is that there is no risk and no gain, and nothing takes to take no risk. You can’t erase the risks themselves, but you can choose which risks you don’t take. It is best to take the risks that satisfy your philosophy and maximize your rewards. The risk that our company never takes is the risk of “damaging the trust of the community.” Although profits and losses of money are certainly important, we focus on promoting business directly and indirectly to solve local needs and problems through geothermal business. Local communities and local stakeholders are the root of our business. In order not to put our trust in the community at risk, we engage in dialogue with the community over the course of several years, and after consensus with the stakeholders in the community, we form a joint business.

Challenge to not regret

Finally, please give a message to students.

I think failure is a natural thing if you take action. There is no loss in establishing risk management habits since I was a student. However, if you are a manager, you need to think deeply about risk management, but you do not have to think deeply about it for students.

For example, I don’t think you will lose much in job hunting. Basically, I think there are many positive points. There is no further risk if the interview does not work, and conversely there is no benefit to doing nothing.

I had this idea since I was a student. Around 20 years ago, when I was doing my job hunting just like you, 50 and 60 companies were taking on the entrance examination, and I was acting without risk. I was able to deepen my understanding as I listened to the stories of people from various industries, and the experience at that time is still alive.

New graduates find employment once in a lifetime, so it’s likely that you won’t regret doing it just as long as you do it, and since you can listen to many people’s stories, it will be useful for your future life. I think that there are things that will or will not fit after entering the company, but it is important to finish job hunting for new graduates anyway.

It’s important to make a habit of risk management, but when I was a student, there was almost no risk and rewards were bigger. Therefore, I think it is important for students to continue taking on challenges without thinking too much about risks.

It is an important time in life, so it is important to listen to the opinions of various people and take action to take on challenges. The reason is that rewards are overwhelmingly larger when considering risks and rewards. The process of earnestly challenging and working passionately will help us when we hit a wall in our work after getting a job. Let’s think about what you can do now and challenge your job hunting so that you will not regret it.

GPSS group

Company was established in October 2012 and has today 185 employees (employees in the group). The company focuses on sustainable energy development and investment business, due diligence service for investors, and power generation monitoring service for large-scale IPPs.

Source: Mira Error