A coalition of private investors led by Bill Gates has announced the launch of an investment fund to help accelerate progress on clean energy development.
Announced at the United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Paris, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition will provide flexible investments designed to scale the public research pipeline for reliable and affordable zero-carbon energy technologies and help bring those technologies to market. To that end, the coalition will work with Mission Innovation, a public-private partnership that seeks to double public-sector investment in clean energy innovation over five years, boost private-sector investment in earlier-stage clean energy companies emerging from government research and development programs, and promote transparency and knowledge sharing. At the time of the announcement, twenty countries, including Brazil, China, France, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, had signed on to the effort.
Members of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition include Laura and John Arnold Foundation co-chair John Arnold, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Dangote Group founder and CEO Aliko Dangote, Children's Investment Fund founder Chris Hohn, Alibaba executive chair Jack Ma, African Rainbow Minerals founder and Motsepe Foundation co-founder Patrice Motsepe, investor and philanthropist George Soros, NextGen Climate president Tom Steyer, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, as well as the University of California system. The coalition's core investment principles include investing early, in the form of seed, angel, and Series A investments; investing broadly, in areas ranging from agriculture to electricity generation and storage to transportation; and investing boldly and wisely, in both novel technologies and efforts to scale existing ones.
Gates has committed $1 billion of his own money and was the "intellectual architect" behind the effort to get investors involved, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told the Associated Press. The investors are making their pledges conditional on governments pledging additional funds, said a former U.S. government official familiar with the plan.
"By far the biggest source of emissions is the production of energy, which accounts for around two-thirds of all greenhouse gases produced by human activity....[T]he only way to dramatically reduce or eliminate global carbon emissions is to switch to sources that do not emit carbon," Gates wrote in a paper entitled Energy Innovation: Why We Need It and How to Get It (9 pages, PDF). "[C]lean, affordable, reliable energy will...make most countries energy-independent, stabilize prices, and provide low- and middle-income countries the resources they need to develop their economies and help more people escape poverty — all while keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees. I am optimistic that the next fifteen years can bring the big breakthroughs we need to accomplish all of these things."