Philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates will lead a US$1-billion fund to invest in clean energy at every stage of its technological maturity, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission to nearly zero, Fortune reports.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and enterprise software company SAP’s co-founder, Hasso Plattner, are among nearly two dozen of the world’s wealthiest business leaders and venture capitalists who will finance Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund for at least 20 years. Gates will chair the investment group.
“I am honoured to work along with these investors to build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research,” Gates said in a statement. “Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world.”
Gates’ fund is linked at least conceptually to the Mission Innovation initiative he brokered last year at United Nations climate summit in Paris. It committed nearly a score of countries to double their funding of clean energy and climate research. The Breakthrough Ventures Fund “will help build companies based on the promising technologies that come out of these countries’ scaled-up public research pipelines,” Fortune says, citing participants in the fund.
“The new fund is designed to be both broad and scientific in its investment approach,” the magazine states. Investments “will not be confined to a specific segment of the investment pipeline. It will put money into start-ups at the earliest of stages, all the way to companies that have reached commercialization. The fund will consider investments across a broad number of energy sectors, including electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial system use, agriculture, and energy system efficiency.”
The commitment’s scale was enough to make a symbolic splash, but its actual effect may be more limited: The fund’s US$1 billion, committed over two decades, will add on the order of US$50 million a year to the nearly US$300 billion already being invested annually in renewable energy. Observers are pointing out that it’s a nice fillip, and the attention to the sector’s opportunities is great—but beyond the happy year-end headline, but it’s no game-changer.