Bill Gates and other tech heavyweights launch $1 billion clean energy fund to fight climate change

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Billionaire philanthropist and investor Bill Gates launched a $1 billion fund, called Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), to invest in new forms of clean energy.

Gates has gathered a group of like-minded investors, including Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Silicon Valley venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, and former hedge manager John Arnold, to join him in the fund.

And as if those names weren’t enough in terms of drumming up innovation firepower, BEV’s list of investors also includes Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Masayoshi Son (Softbank), Marc Benioff (Salesforce), Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), just to name a few. Collectively, the members of the group are worth about $170 billion.

 

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In a post on his Gates Notes blog, Gates said the fund will invest in “scientific breakthroughs that have the potential to deliver cheap and reliable clean energy to the world.”

“We need affordable and reliable energy that doesn’t emit greenhouse gas to power the future — and to get it, we need a different model for investing in good ideas and moving them from the lab to the market,” Gates said in his post.

The announcement of the fund comes a year after the United Nations climate change talks in Paris, where Gates unveiled the Breakthrough Energy Coalition – a group of some 20 billionaire business leaders from around the world, plus institutional investors, who committed to investing in new forms of energy. The coalition partnered with Mission Innovation, a group of 20 countries and the European Union that pledged to double their investment in clean energy research over five years. Gates calls the new Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund the next step to the coalition formed in December 2015.

The investors in Breakthrough Energy Ventures have a high tolerance for risk and are willing to wait longer than typical venture funds for a return on their investment, Gates pointed out. The group has spelled out five “grand challenges” which it says are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions around the world: electricity, buildings, manufacturing, transportation and food.

Gates, the world’s richest man, has been an investor in various forms of new energy over the year, as have venture capitalists Doerr and Khosla. So far, none of those investments have yielded technologies that have been widely adopted or that have been financially very successful. That underlines the challenges this fund faces: It’s not easy to select or develop successful new clean energy technologies. Yet, Gates and others are optimistic that it’s possible.

 

 

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