One year after the United Nations climate change talks in Paris, Microsoft found Bill Gates has announced the launch of a $1 billion fund to invest in new forms of clean energy. A group of approximately 20 billionaire business leaders and institutional investors from around the world called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition partnered with Mission Innovation, comprising 20 countries plus the European Union, aim to invest in “scientific breakthroughs that have the potential to deliver cheap and reliable clean energy to the world.”
Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund, led by Gates, includes John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Jack Ma of Alibaba, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, John Arnold of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Hasso Plattner of SAP, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Gates believes government should fund basic research on problems affecting climate change, with private investors backing the risky ventures emerging from such research. According to its website, the stated goal of the fund is to invest in companies and technologies with “the potential to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least half a gigaton.”
The fund will put money into early-development-stage startups as well as commercialized companies, across a broad range of energy sectors, including architecture, agriculture, transportation, industrial manufacturing systems, generation and storage of electricity, and energy system efficiencies. The investments are much riskier than traditional investors can tolerate, with a much longer-term return on investment.