Bill Gates and a group of elite private investors — including Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba cofounder Jack Ma, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, among others — on Monday announced the launch of Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
Gates says the new multi-billion dollar clean energy research and development initiative “will help companies get clean-energy innovation out of the lab and into the marketplace.” You can read the initiative’s principles here, but the broad focus is on bringing “widely available energy that is reliable, affordable, and does not produce carbon.”
The launch was timed to coincide with the opening day of the U.N. climate change summit in Paris today. Companies from the tech sector are increasingly joining the discussion on clean energy; Apple, for example, announced in October that its global operations are now 87 percent powered by renewables.
“Priscilla and I are joining Bill Gates in launching the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to invest in new clean energy technologies,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “Solving the clean energy problem is an essential part of building a better world. We won’t be able to make meaningful progress on other challenges — like educating or connecting the world — without secure energy and a stable climate. Yet progress towards a sustainable energy system is too slow, and the current system doesn’t encourage the kind of innovation that will get us there faster.”
He added: “The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will invest in ideas that have the potential to transform the way we all produce and consume energy. As leaders prepare for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris this week, we hope this will encourage more partners to make innovation a priority in the fight against climate change. We already invest in renewable and clean energy for our Facebook facilities today, but we believe that building a positive future for the next generation also means investing in long-term projects that companies and governments don’t fund. This is an important focus for us, and we’ll share more about it in the coming days.”
Key areas of focus are expected to be around electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial use, agriculture, and energy system efficiency. Ultimately, the goal is a “near zero emissions energy future.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, who is also in attendance at the Paris conference alongside representatives from nearly 200 nations, said it is an opportunity to “place a long-term framework for further emissions reductions — targets set by each nation, but transparent enough to be verified by other nations.”
Obama also said the climate change conference will be an opportunity to “stand in solidarity” with France, following the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month.