A number of wealth investors form the tech and finance industries including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, are backing Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), a new $1bn fund for investing in clean energy technologies.
BEV's website describes the venture as "a partnership committed to broad investment in new energy technologies.
"We are investing our own capital and are working with over 20 countries around the world who have committed to significantly increase their investments in the basic research that leads to breakthrough innovations, it says.
Other big-name investors from the tech industry include Richard Branson, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, Jack Ma of Alibaba and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son.
Gates, who is acting chair of BEV, has been interested in renewable energy for some time. In 2015 he wrote in his blog: "One step is to lay the foundation for innovation by drastically increasing government funding for research on clean energy solutions. Right now, the world spends only a few billion dollars a year on researching early-stage ideas for zero-carbon energy. It should be investing two or three times that much."
In the absence of sufficient funding by governments Gates believes private investors need to step up to tackle climate change. However, while clean tech has seen huge increases in efficiency and adoption, some investors in the sector have been burned. Gates warned that backers should not expect a rapid return on investment.
"People think you can just put $50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got. In this energy space, that's not true at all," he said, before adding that the long-term future of the sector represents a very promising opportunity.
"It's such a big market that the value if you're really providing a big portion of the world's energy, the value of that will be super, super big."
Energy storage technology is one of the main growth areas in clean tech, as exemplified by the substantial investments in battery technology by Tesla. It's likely to be one of the early areas of focus for BEV, which says it will invest in any promising technologies that meet four criteria: that they have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least half a gigaton, they are being developed by companies with real potential to attract capital from sources outside of BEV, that they have an existing scientific proof of concept that can be meaningfully advanced, and that the companies "need the unique attributes of BEV capital, including patience, judgement by scientific milestones, flexible investment capabilities, and a significant global network."
Gates was also involved in the 2015 Mission Innovation initiative to increase state investment in clean energy technologies, which was signed by 22 countries including the US. However, president-elect Donald Trump has voiced his scepticism over the science of climate change and has pledged to roll back international agreements, appointing prominent deniers and oil industry executives to his administration. Despite this, Gates struck an optimistic note.
"The dialogue with the new administration as it comes in about how they see energy research will be important," he said. "The general idea that research is a good deal fortunately is not a partisan thing."
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