Bill Gates has launched a multi-billion-dollar initiative to fund new clean energy technologies, with the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, and Virgin Group's Richard Branson among the band of almost 30 high-profile early investors who are committed to taking clean-energy ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace to cut the cost of sustainable energy once and for all.
Announced at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris yesterday, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition brings together governments and universities, billionaire entrepreneurs, investment fund managers, and tech CEOs from around the world that recognise the huge investment needed to replace fossil fuels with modes of cheap, sustainable energy production.
And it’s just in time, with the world expected to be using 50 percent more energy by 2050 than it does today. "I am optimistic that we can invent the tools we need to generate clean, affordable, reliable energy that will help the poorest improve their lives and also stop climate change," Gates says on his blog. "I hope even more governments and investors will join us."
While the intent of the initiative sounds noble, it hasn’t attracted billions in investments just because it aims to mitigate the effects of climate change and bring energy to the 1 billion people in the world who are living without electricity - as entirely worthwhile these goals are. Gates says the primary goal of the Coalition is as much to accelerate progress on clean energy as it is to make a profit.
So yep, it’s official: sustainable energy isn’t just good for the environment - it’s set to become one of the best investments you can make for your dollar.
The funds will be invested in the most promising innovations from research institutions around the globe that can show signifiant gains on current efficiency levels in solar, wind, hydro, and biofuel technologies. Basically, researchers have done a great job up till this point, but in order to make these technologies seriously competitive with carbon-based energy production, they need some serious cash.
"The renewable technologies we have today, like wind and solar, have made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future. But given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths - and that means we also need to invent new approaches," Gates said in a statement.
"[P]rogress towards a sustainable energy system is too slow, and the current system doesn't encourage the kind of innovation that will get us there faster," Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. "We already invest in renewable and clean energy for our Facebook facilities today, but we believe that building a positive future for the next generation also means investing in long-term projects that companies and governments don’t fund."
According to CNN, the fund has announced that it will focus its attention on new technology that addresses five key areas: electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial uses, agriculture, and great efficacy.
Announced at the same time is a second new initiative: Mission Innovation, a commitment by 19 countries, including the US, China, and India to invest more in research on clean energy. By signing this pledge, these countries have committed to double their spending on sustainable energy technologies over the next five years.
Gates has published a paper that he says makes a more detailed case for investing in energy innovation, which you can download here.
We could not be more excited to see something like this come into effect. Serious cash is all that was needed to get sustainable energy over the line as a viable replacement for fossil fuels, and serious cash we now have. Watch this space - we’re going to be seeing some incredible progress and record-breaking solar, wind, and hydro power gains in the coming years, and it’s going to be awesome.