As President-elect Donald Trump‘s climate-skeptic/pro-fossil fuels cabinet takes shape, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and other very wealthy and very influential individuals have launched a $1 billion fund dedicated to clean energy innovation.
“Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable and emissions-free energy to the world,” Gates said in a statement.
The Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund (BEV) will focus on five key areas that are the biggest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions: electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and buildings.
“Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we’re open-minded to,” Gates, who serves as BEV chairman, told Quartz.
The fund, which has a 20-year duration, seeks to answer some of the most pressing questions facing our warming planet:
- How can we deliver reliable, affordable zero-carbon electricity to the world?
- How can we get around our communities and the world without emitting carbon?
- How can we feed the planet without contributing to climate change?
- How can we make everything we use without emitting greenhouse gasses?
- How can we eliminate emissions from our homes, offices, hospitals, and schools?
Gates and his BEV co-directors—Alibaba’s Ma, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, former energy hedge fund manager John Arnold and SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner—have a combined net worth of nearly $170 billion, according to estimates from Bloomberg and Forbes.
“Too often, we let what we think we know limit what is possible,” Ma said in a statement. “When it comes to energy, people say you cannot make money, meet demand and also benefit the environment. But we can and we will.”
Other BEV investors are some of the world’s richest and most powerful, such as Richard Branson of Virgin Group Ltd., billionaire natural gas trader John Arnold, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Kingdom Holding, Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, Patrice Motsepe of African Rainbow Minerals, Xavier Niel of Iliad Group, Masayoshi Son of SoftBank, and Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi of SOHO China.
“The launch of the fund, a year after the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, comes at an important time as we try to accelerate the uptake of clean energy throughout the world,” Virgin’s Branson wrote in a company blog post. “The sustainable energy revolution is well underway, but we need new tools and solutions to help us reduce our carbon output and continue moving in the right direction.”
“Breakthrough Energy Ventures is a wonderful way to expand this effort,” Branson added.
Quartz writes that the BEV will likely expand its war chest as more like-minded backers hop onboard:
“The fund, which won’t charge investors management fees beyond its operating costs, will likely start with a temporary office in the heart of the US venture capital industry on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, California. It’s expected that the size of the initial fund will increase, with more investors coming on board, and it’s possible that Breakthrough Energy Ventures eventually launches additional funds.”
BEV will likely focus on energy storage technology for the first wave of investments, since improvements in renewable energy storage, such as batteries, expedite a transition to sustainable energy.
Gates first announced his intention to launch the fund at the Paris climate talks last year. The world’s richest man and renowned philanthropist told Quartz that he is surprised that clean-energy innovation is not often mentioned as an option to fight climate change.
“All of that takes place just as a normal market mechanism as you replace energy sources with other ways to do it,” Gates explained.
This week, a group of top tech executives from Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and more will reportedly meet with the president-elect at the so-called ” tech summit.”
“The dialogue with the new administration as it comes in about how they see energy research will be important,” Gates told Quartz. “The general idea that research is a good deal, fortunately, is not a partisan thing.”