Bill Gates and other technology industry leaders have established a $1 billion venture fund to invest in companies developing cutting-edge energy technologies — searching for breakthroughs that they hope will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to almost nothing.
The Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, to be formally announced on Monday, boasts a board that includes Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma, Silicon Valley venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, and SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner. Investors in the fund include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and others.
Gates, who will serve as the fund’s chairman, said in a statement, “I am honored to work along with these investors to build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research. Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world.”
The announcement by the influential technology leaders — emphasizing the importance of government funding for energy research — comes after President-elect Donald Trump selected Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, an opponent of the Obama administration’s climate change policies, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump, who said Sunday that “nobody really knows” if climate change is real, is reportedly close to nominating ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
A small group of industry leaders is separately scheduled to meet with Trump in New York City later this week. Bezos has reportedly been invited, but it’s not clear if Gates or other members of the Breakthrough Energy group will be in attendance.
In addition to announcing the fund, the group released a new “Landscape of Innovation” document that outlines the areas where they could invest to bring carbon emissions to near-zero. The plan includes five “grand challenges” — in electricity, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture and buildings — related to 55 “technical quests.”
Gates gave this widely watched TED talk in 2010 on the need and potential for energy breakthroughs.