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Global billionaires unite in “Breakthrough energy coalition” to support development of zero-carbon energy

As the UN climate conference COP21 opened in Paris, Bill Gates announced the formation of the “Breakthrough energy coalition”, an investment grouping of global billionaires focused on developing the technologies that will create a new zero-carbon energy mix.

While governments play the key role in large-scale funding commitments for basic and applied research, the coalition says in the “Principles” section of its website, current governmental funding levels for clean energy are insufficient to meet the challenge.

It is the private sector that knows how to build companies, to evaluate the potential for success, and to take the risks that lead to taking innovative ideas and bringing them to the world. However, the partners note, in the current business environment, the risk-reward balance for early-stage investing in potentially transformative energy systems is unlikely to meet the market tests of traditional angel or VC investors.

Neither government funding nor conventional private investment have been able consistently to bridge the Valley of Death between promising concept and viable product.

This collective failure can be addressed, in part, by a dramatically scaled-up public research pipeline, linked to a different kind of private investor with a long term commitment to new technologies who is willing to put truly patient flexible risk capital to work. These investors will certainly be motivated partly by the possibility of making big returns over the long-term, but also by the criticality of an energy transition. Success will provide the economic proof points necessary for the mainstream market-driven clean energy economy required for our planetary future.

—Breakthrough energy coalition

The coalition partners intend to form a network of private capital committed to building a structure that will allow informed decisions to help accelerate the change to the advanced energy future.

The coalition includes:

  • Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited, India
  • John Arnold, Co-chair, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, US
  • Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce.com, US
  • Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon, US
  • HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Alwaleed Philanthropies, Saudi Arabia
  • Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group, UK
  • Ray Dalio, Founder, Bridgewater Associates, US
  • Aliko Dangote, Founder and Chief Executive, Dangote Group, Nigeria
  • John Doerr, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, US
  • Bill Gates, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US
  • Reid Hoffman, Founder, LinkedIn and Partner, Greylock, US
  • Chris Hohn, Founder, The Children’s Investment Fund, UK
  • Vinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures, US
  • Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group, China
  • Patrice Motsepe, Founder and Executive Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), South Africa
  • Xavier Niel, Founder, Iliad Group, France
  • Hasso Plattner, Co-founder and Chairman, SAP, Germany
  • Julian Robertson, Founder and Chairman, Tiger Management, US
  • Neil Shen, Founding Managing Partner, Sequoia Capital China, China
  • Nat Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons, Co-founders, Prelude Ventures, US
  • Masayoshi Son, Founder, Chairman and CEO, SoftBank Group Corp., Japan
  • George Soros, Chairman, Soros Fund Management LLC, US
  • Tom Steyer, Businessman, Philanthropist, and President, NextGen Climate, US
  • Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons, India
  • Meg Whitman, CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, US
  • Ms. Zhang Xin and Mr. Pan Shiyi, Co-founder and CEO, SOHO China; Chairman, SOHO China
  • Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Facebook Pediatrician and CEO, The Primary School US
  • University of California, Office of the Chief Investment Officer, US

Comments

HarveyD

A mix of clean Water, Wind and Solar energies is already cheaper than new Coal, NG and Nuke energies and the gap is getting wider almost every day.

People with very deep pockets could help to widen the gap a lot more and drive fossil and nuke energies out of the market place.

Engineer-Poet

Meanwhile, government funds are being used to remove dams which could instead be used for small-scale hydro generation.  Harvey and so many others are living in a world of total delusion.

Trevor Carlson

That list reads like the who's who of the new world order. Now that they're openly uniting they most definitely have more power than any single government entity. If such a coalition decided on a course of action for the globe, there would be nothing anyone (including nation states if they were so inclined) could do to stop them. That is precisely the goal here.

msevior

Havey, your statement is just not true. If it was, people would be investing like crazy in it and making money as they undercut the fossil fuel/nuke companies.

Here we read about new advances in technology on a weekly basis with very few, (actually none so far) who actually get to market their factor 2 - 10 improvements. That said, I think there is a good chance Tesla will actually succeed at making batteries good enough to get a non-trivial fraction (> 10%) of home PV's generating electricity without government subsidies.

My personal hope is that numerous molten-salt nuclear reactor concepts get a good chance of actually building working technology with funds like this. For example if the vision of

http://www.transatomicpower.com/

is full-filled the energy problems of humans will be substantially changed. Their technology is truly scalable and sustainable into the very long term (> 10^6 years on Earth). Likely needs a few billion dollars though and so far they've received about 4 million.

HarveyD

Alternative clean (renewable) energy sources will evolve much faster in the coming years, specially if private $$$ become available to complement public contributions.

Everybody with unbiased objectives know that Solar energy will soon be captured and stored more efficiently, in enough quantities to meet our global needs, to the level required to retire CPPs, NGPPS and NPPs.

Hydro and Wind energies will complement Solar for many decades or until such times as Solar becomes the ultimate lowest cost clean energy source.

electric-car-insider.com

Is it just me, or is there something oddly dystopian about the phrase "Global billionaires unite"

Maybe they could start with buying a better government...

Engineer-Poet
http://www.transatomicpower.com/

is full-filled the energy problems of humans will be substantially changed. Their technology is truly scalable and sustainable into the very long term (> 10^6 years on Earth).

Rivers add 32,000 tons of uranium to the oceans every year; all human energy consumption is equivalent to fission of 5000 tons per year.  Either TAP or fast-spectrum reactors would feed humanity's energy needs as long as earth has a hydrological cycle (in other words, longer than it will have life).

Maybe they could start with buying a better government...

They've already bought most of the governments, so we can assume that they're just what the billionaires want them to be.

Lad

My plan: wind down gas and oil subsides over the next ten years to force the fossil fuels industries to stand on their own; knowing they can't. Then channel the money into renewables development and continuing battery research and development. We are almost at the point where BEVs will make sense for the mass market, i.e., long range batteries will go into mass production.

To save this World may I be so bold as to say; We have to put the fossil fuels businesses out of the business of burning fossil fuels in the atmosphere, yesterday. Using oil, coal and gas as feedstock to produce non-fuel products is a good use of carbon; fuels are not...just to repeat myself.

As pointed out, It does little good for well-meaning investors to invest in clean energy when their Government is working against the betterment of its people and these very investors, by continuing to fund the fossil fuel demons.

mahonj

Generating electricity from solar is easy and quite cheap. Storing it for when the sun does not shine is not cheap. Bridging across nights is possible, but you will have corner case times when there is no sun for several days and for those cases, you need dispatchable power, i.e. fossil fuel powered generators.
Thus, you have to keep most of your fossil generating power available, even though you use it less and less per year.
The same applies to wind, you will get the odd long calm period.
Thus, your average system costs remain high, even if you can generate solar electricity cheaply.

Better get going with nukes (and insulation).

mahonj

Looking at that list, it may be hard to get them to agree on anything.

You might be better just getting less cash from Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

I wonder what the admission price is ?

electric-car-insider.com

EP> They've already bought most of the governments

Different set of billionaires. The most telling (and encouraging) thing about this list is to see where most of these gentlemen earned their money. Bits not atoms.

Brotherkenny4

They should invest in storage. Battery factories for stationary battery technology and hydro storage. There are numerous sites where hydro alone is not economical. A valley may be adequate for a dam, but the river is small and low flow. That flow combined with pumped storage may make more sense. And, since these guys own the governments, they can get them to implement eminent domain.

Harvey is only slightly incorrect. However, huge investments that utilize economies of scale will in fact reduce costs of renewables to below fossil and nuclear (or nucular if you prefer).

ECI, yep, the government is owned by these guys. So our failure is really theirs. What people forget is that they are not particularly intelligent, but rather more ruthless than the typical person and perhaps with a bit more luck. While they often talk about long term and societally beneficial investments that can be massively profitable, they seem to lack any real understanding of tech and science. They also seem to somewhat lack the ability for rational thought. They are after all billionaires and so rationally one would think that they would be without fear and determined to do good for the world that made them so privileged. But, their slow and inhibited response to issues and crisis suggests a rather mediocre capability.

Brotherkenny4

By the way, these genius billionaires should look at the investments made by the government under the Recovery Act of 2009 in the area of renewables and storage as well as the renewables and storage invested in under the loan program. They should be fair too, and not simply accept the hyperbolic rhetoric of the standard media fear mongers who emphasize the minute number of failures (such as solyndra) but rather truthfully analyze the percent of successes now in the future, and without political ideology determining whether they can agree.

sd

I firmly believe that the only real hope for clean safe energy that can displace most of the fossil fuels now being burned is nuclear power. If you read the Energy Innovation paper by Bill Gates, you will see the statement "the IEA has estimated that wind and solar PV could cut the world’s annual emissions from electricity generation 22 percent by 2050." This is a maximum given all kinds of rosey scenarios. Where does the rest of it come from? Fossil Fuels and even for the amount being generated by the so-called renewable, tere needs to be a backup system. "Today that requires maintaining a parallel system powered by fossil fuels." So you often pay twice for the capital cost.

Another interesting potential nuclear system is the traveling wave reactor. See http://terrapower.com/ Traveling wave reactors essentially burn to completion with very little waste and can use spent fuel, natural uranium, or even depleted uranium as fuel. And who is supporting this?

Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold serve respectively as Chairman and Vice Chairman of TerraPower’s activities

Dr. Strange Love

This is a feel good club. They are a bunch of clueless bores.

NorthernPiker

mahongj, the corner case becomes a much smaller issue for a off-grid homeowner who owns a medium/high-range BEV near a public charging station. Then again, autonomous vehicles may enable "car as a service" and less car ownership....

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