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.
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.