Bringing COP21 Home: Bill Gates’ New Energy Fund & Why It Matters

As international leaders meet at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, another announcement hit innovators a bit closer to home. Bill Gates, in conjunction with a group of like-minded philanthropists, announced the Breakthrough Energy Fund to support clean energy innovation for decades to come.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, an initiative led by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, includes a number of philanthropists and tech luminaries, such as founder Jeff Bezos, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, and Alibaba CEO Jack Ma. The Breakthrough Energy Fund will back clean energy research and development to “help companies get clean-energy innovation out of the lab and into the marketplace,” in the words of Gates.

You don’t have to be an inventor to appreciate the importance of this announcement. The Fund, aimed at supporting research & development of new tech and early stage clean technology companies, will fill a major gap in the current innovation cycle. While we already have a number of excellent technologies available, some have not fully infiltrated the market. Others are prohibitively expensive for wide-scale commercial use. The Breakthrough Energy Fund will narrow this gap while bringing light upon the importance of the growing cleantech industry.

At 1776’s special energy event with US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the urgency for corrective action became increasingly apparent. Panelists of this event, of which I was privileged to be one, discussed surpassing the “2 degree limit for destruction,” likely to happen in the next 30 years.

According to a special report by The Economist, we have already surpassed the point of no return for irreparable damage to the ecosystem. “It’s nice for people to talk about two degrees,” Bill Gates says in this interview. “But we don’t even have the commitments that are going to keep us below four degrees of warming.” The question is no longer “How can we stop this?” but “How can we mitigate the impending effects?”

Luckily, innovators are already working to solve these problems. We’re seeing new and better technology every day. As we continue to develop more effective, efficient, and cheaper technologies, we’re taking bigger steps to making zero-carbon energy production and use a reality. Although deployment of even the best clean technologies has been challenging, I’m confident that, with the help of the new coalition, we can implement these technologies to help us help ourselves out of this mess.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a heavily invested group of leaders, is extremely exciting. This group is a testimony to the importance of energy technology. In the next 15 years, we will achieve unprecedented progress in the development and deployment of clean technologies. With this added funding, the movement will only accelerate.

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