Some big names with big money say they plan to put more than $1 billion into developing technologies that will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and lower the price of energy.
Bill Gates said the fund plans to make its first investments next year and run for 20 years.
“It is extremely exciting for us to launch this fund as the next step in the commitment made by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition last year,” said BEV Chairman Bill Gates. “I am honored to work along with these investors to build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research. Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world.”
The fund’s announcement comes less than a week after President-elect Donald Trump announced he will nominate the attorney general of Oklahoma, a climate-change skeptic, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
The fund, however, was in the works long before the election. It is the investing venture of a coalition formed in November 2015.
Gates is the chairman of a group of 20 investors who call their fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures. They want to speed innovation in the $6 trillion energy market. At the top of the investors’ list of criteria: nurture technologies with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least a half gigaton.
Board member Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group in China, said the time has come for action – not blame.
“What we need to do is solve the problem together. A solution and a way forward will only come about by combining the efforts of government, private sector, scientists, sociologists, and philanthropists. We must work together to create the tools necessary to
combat climate change for this generation and those to come after.”
Some other founding members of the fund include venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Michael Bloomberg, and Virgin Founder Richard Branson. The fund will have a life span of 15 to 20 years.
Gates said the fund plans to hire staff and make initial investments next year. The fund identified several areas for investment, and Gates highlighted an even more-targeted approach aimed at helping startups that can reduce emissions from electricity generation, transportation, and industrial processes in steel-making, cement production and agriculture.
“This fund is to get things at an early stage, so we’re willing to take high risk,” Gates said in an interview.
The initial $1 billion sum, he said, is still much bigger than any previous clean-energy fund and is enough to signal the investors’ seriousness.
The framework for Breakthrough Energy is based on growing a relationship between governments, private sector, and scientific community.
Another important partner, Gates said, is the University of California system.
According to the New York Times, Janet Napolitano, president of the system, said the schools had “hundreds of scientists working on the issue of how do you create an affordable, reliable energy supply that doesn’t contribute to the greenhouse gas problem.”
Gates has said that the investments he makes won’t matter as much as the choices that governments make. He believes there is broad support in Washington for energy research and development. But, he added, “it’s hard to say” whether clean energy continues to get government incentives or what energy policies a Trump administration might pursue.
Gates said he is absolutely convinced that goals for reducing carbon emissions will be met.
“If you told me there was no innovation and not the kind of private, risk-taking capital we’ve got here, then I would be very pessimistic because year after year the problem would get worse,” he said. “I see the work going on … we are going to surprise people with the kind of innovation that will come out of the Breakthrough Energy Ventures investment pool.”
On Tuesday, Gates met with President-elect Donald Trump at his transition headquarters in Manhattan.
“It was a good time,” Gates declared. “We had a good conversation about innovation, how it can help in health, education, the impact of foreign aid and energy, and a wide-ranging conversation about power of innovation.”
Portions of this story by The Associated Press.