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R&D
This Is the Best Green News We’ve Seen All Year

The Paris climate “treaty” wasn’t the most important green accomplishment last year, whatever you might hear from environmentalists. No, that distinction goes to the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, formed by a group of some of the world’s richest individuals with the express purpose of jump-starting the research and development of clean energy technologies. Now, a little over a year later, that coalition has unveiled a $1 billion fund aimed not at the subsidization of current-generation green technologies (something many governments seem fond of these days), but rather meant to help back the next wave of potential solutions to the growing problem of how humanity is going to sustainably thrive on this planet.

Bloomberg reports:

Dubbed Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the 20-year fund is backed by a mix of technology luminaries and heavyweights from the energy industry. The goal is to pump money into risky, long-term energy technology that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a statement. The investments will likely go into areas such as electricity generation and storage, agriculture and transportation. […]

“The dearth of venture funding for clean energy technologies threatens to create a valley of death for the industry, with emerging ideas unable to find the necessary capital to reach commercialization,” [said natural gas trader John Arnold] in a statement. “As an investor led effort, Breakthrough Energy Ventures is designed as a source of patient capital to spur innovation to meet the growing demand for low-cost, clean energy solutions.”

It’s a decidedly welcome thing that Gates & co. decided to step in and help plug this gap in funding left by policymakers more interested in propping up today’s solar panels and wind turbines than they are with actually developing renewable technologies that can compete on cost without government assistance.

Because until we can commercially scale cost-effective clean energy technologies, renewables are going to be left to the mercy of the inconstant support of politicians. If we really want to see wind and solar thrive, or the next generation of nuclear technologies to flourish, or carbon capture and storage systems to become a reality, we’re going to need to fork over the cash to fund the work of the scientists and engineers looking to make these options more efficient and economical.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Gates has no problem with “risky, long-term technology”. Love him or not, (some do, some don’t) he’s a big picture guy. I often wonder how much Melinda has altered his trajectory as it might have otherwise been without her.

  • Andrew Allison

    Last year?? Let’s hope that the fact that it’s their money rather than the taxpayers’ makes the due diligence more diligent than for, e.g. Solyndra.

    • CaliforniaStark

      No it is not their money, its the taxpayer’s money. The taxpayers funds are used for basis research, the the tech barons will then fund what works, and make the profit. Crony capitalism at its worst. Below is a quote from a pbs story:

      “Gates announced the formation of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, the group that is launching the fund, at last year’s Paris climate change meeting. In addition to the private investments, Gates said he and other investors convinced 20 governments to double their energy research and development budgets over the next five years.

      Gates and his investors expect the fund will be used to supplement government funding, which provides a major catalyst for clean energy research through business subsidies and university grants to universities.”

      • Andrew Allison

        Wrong. As the post makes clear, the $1billion is a PRIVATE investor R&D fund. As to the 20-country agreement, get back to us when they actually put up the money and invest it in R&D.

  • Fat_Man

    I can’t teach you people anything. Call me if they actually develop something that can be economically viable without subsidies.

    • Andrew Allison

      As I wrote above, this is not governments flinging taxpayer’s money into Unicorn hunts. Unlike governments, the individual investors in the fund stand to lose their assets [grin] when they invest in Unicorn hunts. The good news is that now we have individuals with skin in the game evaluating proposals and the chances of this approach producing economically feasible products are infinitely higher than governmental intervention. The history of VC investment suggests that there may well be a breakthough of two.

      • Fat_Man

        Actually, a number of VCs have played in the energy space over the past few years. They have produced nothing. Like I said, call me if they actually develop something that can be economically viable without subsidies.

        • Andrew Allison
          • Fat_Man

            Nothing new there. Solar is not economically viable even if the cells are free and 100% efficient. The problem, that can never be solved is that the sun goes down every bleep bleep day. Without fail.

            The auto tech article just showed that there is bloody little really new technology in that space. They gave forced air induction an entry.

          • Andrew Allison
          • Fat_Man

            They have been publishing this type of hype for years, with a noticeable lack of concrete accomplishments.

            BTW: “Charges in seconds” sets off my BS detector. You cannot charge a battery faster than volts × amps × time, and the faster you charge it, the more waste heat you have to deal with. Any thing that charges in seconds, holds purely trivial amounts of energy, or is cooled with liquid nitrogen.

          • Andrew Allison

            Your BS detector is too sensitive [grin]. Had you read the article a little more closely, you would have seen that some of the products are already in production. Batteries, in particular, are getting a great deal of attention thanks to the demands of EVs, and offer the potential to solve the solar intermittency problem. The issue, of course, is cost. I don’t see these technologies bursting into high volume (low cost) next year, but some are definitely coming.
            We’ve drifted somewhat from the point I was trying to make, namely that there’s a much better chance of success when entrepreneurs and investors are risking their own, rather than the taxpayers’, money.

          • Fat_Man

            “there’s a much better chance of success when entrepreneurs and investors
            are risking their own, rather than the taxpayers’, money.”

            To be sure. But, the chance of them finding something that will make the eco-freakoes happy are zero. The only thing that would make them happy, is if 6 billion humans died suddenly and the eco-freakoes were the lords of creation. Then they would make the peasants taste the lash.

          • Andrew Allison

            Another change of subject but, we are about to confirm a President one of whose aims is to lash the eco-freakos, and more power to him. Seems to me that if the EPA’s the DNC lapdogs in the MSM, and the climate “science” industry hands were clean they wouldn’t be sh—-g their britches. If they haven’t been doing anything wrong, why would they be worried?

  • rpabate

    I can just see the headlines when the next cold period arrives and the level of CO2 drops to dangerously low levels that crop yields are declining and mass starvation the global threat. Cold makes the oceans absorb CO2.

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