December 12, 2016

Bill Gates teams up with tech moguls to launch billion-dollar clean energy fund

With the election of Donald Trump casting serious doubts on the future of US energy policy, a group of tech moguls have taken it upon themselves to push forward the conversation around clean energy.

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and other tech industry icons have announced the development of a new billion-dollar fund dedicated to funding clean energy breakthroughs. The new fund, called the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, is expected to begin making investments in 2017.

Fund Dedicated to Green Technologies

Over the course of two decades, the BEV fund has announced the intention to support the commercialization of technologies that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in areas such as power generation and storage, transportation, manufacturing operations and agriculture.

BEV has said it will put money into tech undertakings at any stage, from seed all the way to commercialization.

Gates had just last year announced his intention to personally commit $1 billion in clean energy technology. He was also one of the 28 wealthy individuals and families that agreed to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group broadly dedicated to investing the field. The new fund, which incorporates a lot of these same folks, is a next step in the direction of implementing their capital.

Gates told Quartz he’s been amazed technology innovation isn’t talked about more as a means to fix climate change, as clean-energy breakthroughs could restrict any economic trade-offs from moving over from carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

“All of that takes place just as a normal market mechanism as you replace energy sources with other ways to do it,” Gates said.

Clean energy technology was once the hot trend in Silicon Valley, with total venture capital dollars committed to clean tech hitting $6.1 billion in 2008. After the Great Recession hit, clean energy became a dirty word, particularly after many government-backed startups in the field collapsed.

Gates admitted that clean energy is quite a risky investment, much riskier than investing in information technology.

“People think you can just put $50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got. In this energy space, that’s not true at all,” he said.

The Microsoft founder went on to say the incoming Trump administration has a major role in defining the conversation around future energy research.

“The general idea that research is a good deal-- fortunately is not a partisan thing,” he said.


Image credit: Sam Churchill