THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.
Technology will help solve our energy issues. The urgency of climate change and the energy needs in the poorest parts of the world require an aggressive global program for zero-emission energy innovation. The new model will be a public-private partnership between governments, research institutions, and investors. Scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs can invent and scale the innovative technologies that will limit the impact of climate change while providing affordable and reliable energy to everyone. The existing system of basic research, clean energy investment, regulatory frameworks, and subsidies fails to sufficiently mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future. We can’t wait for the system to change through normal cycles.
The foundation of this program must be large funding commitments for basic and applied research, and here governments play the key role. Only our governments have the mandate to protect the public interest as well as the resources and mechanisms to do this. We know government investment in research can lead to the creation of industries that advance the common good and are driven by private capital. We have seen big successes before with government-funded research programs in space, defense, technology, and medical research, seeding private creativity which has produced many of the innovations that define our current way of life. The political will is emerging to do this again, through aggressive increases in government funding for basic and applied energy research, which can lead to breakthrough technologies for our energy future. However, current governmental funding levels for clean energy are simply insufficient to meet the challenges before us.
Bill Gates Note
The existing system of basic research, clean energy investment, regulatory frameworks, and subsidies fails to sufficiently mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future. We can’t wait for the system to change through normal cycles.
Government research, however, is not enough. We must also add the skills and resources of leading investors with experience in driving innovation from the lab to the marketplace. The private sector knows how to build companies, evaluate the potential for success, and take the risks that lead to taking innovative ideas and bringing them to the world. But in the current business environment, the risk-reward balance for early-stage investing in potentially transformative energy systems is unlikely to meet the market tests of traditional angel or VC investors – not until the underlying economics of the energy sector shift further towards clean energy. Experience indicates that even the most promising ideas face daunting commercialization challenges and a nearly impassable Valley of Death between promising concept and viable product, which neither government funding nor conventional private investment can bridge. This collective failure can be addressed, in part, by a dramatically scaled-up public research pipeline, linked to a different kind of private investor with a long term commitment to new technologies who is willing to put truly patient flexible risk capital to work. These investors will certainly be motivated partly by the possibility of making big returns over the long-term, but also by the criticality of an energy transition. Success will provide the economic proof points necessary for the mainstream market-driven clean energy economy required for our planetary future.
We are committed to doing our part and filling this capital need by coming together in a new coalition. We will form a network of private capital committed to building a structure that will allow informed decisions to help accelerate the change to the advanced energy future our planet needs. Success requires a partnership of increased government research, with a transparent and workable structure to objectively evaluate those projects, and committed private-sector investors willing to support the innovative ideas that come out of the public research pipeline.
Together we will focus on early stage companies that have the potential of an energy future that produces near zero carbon emissions and provides everyone with affordable, reliable energy. We will invest based on a few core investment principles:
The most transformative ideas are emerging out of research institutions and the great capital gap is in getting these ideas out of the lab and on the path to commercialization. We’ll take a flexible approach to early stage, providing seed, angel and Series A investments, with the expectation that once these investments are de-risked, traditional commercial capital will invest in the later stages.
We don’t know where the best ideas will come from to transition the world to a near zero-emissions energy future, so we will invest across a number of sectors:
a. Electricity generation and storage
c. Industrial use
e. Energy system efficiency
We are looking for outliers both in developing novel technologies AND in innovations which enable current technologies to be dramatically more efficient, scalable, or cheaper. Whether core or enabling technology, the key differentiating factor must be a credible pathway to rapid scaling – providing affordable energy to the greatest number of people without overburdening essential resources including land use.
One of the challenges to effective financing in this area is a lack of depth in terms of technical review and analysis of underlying science and technology to guide investment decisions. To tackle this, we will work with a coalition of the world’s best minds, in partnership with leading public and private institutions, to guide investment decision-making.
Because the foundation of these innovations will likely come through government research pipelines, we will focus our investments on those countries that have committed to increase the size of those pipelines by participating in the international initiative known as Mission Innovation. Those countries are making a serious commitment to using smart government spending to increase the rate of innovation in their domestic innovation sector while helping the world find solutions to the serious problems created by climate change, high costs of power, and energy price volatility.
Over the next year, we will work together to develop effective and creative mechanisms to analyze potential investments coming out of the research pipeline, create investment vehicles to facilitate those investments, and expand the community of investors who join us in this endeavor.
Who We Are
Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited
Co-chair, Laura and John Arnold Foundation
"There is no greater challenge society faces than creating affordable clean energy innovations. However, private industry, government, and philanthropy are unlikely to succeed alone. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition recognizes that one sector's investments can complement another and lead to new technologies. Only by leveraging the strengths of each sector will the world find and develop new solutions to supply the rising demand for energy in an environmentally friendly way."
Founder, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce.com
"We are facing the rising danger of climate change, and it has become clear to me that the solution will require significant innovation. We don't know what our energy mix will look like years from now, but we have to start inventing it today."
Founder and CEO, Amazon
HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Alwaleed Philanthropies
"I am pleased to announce my support to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition under the leadership of my friend, Bill Gates. The Alwaleed Philanthropies are dedicated to building sustainable communities around the world and it is imperative that a radical change is made in the way we generate and use energy in order to move towards a more sustainable world. I believe this coalition will aggressively address the dual challenge of satisfying increasing energy needs and combating climate change. Alternatives to current energy resources are urgently needed and research can play an essential role. I look forward to this new endeavor as a continuation of my meaningful and transformational alliance with Bill Gates."
Founder, Virgin Group
"The world needs to be carbon neutral by 2050. This CAN and HAS to be achieved by governments, business and others coming together to create an energy revolution. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will help make this a reality. The next decade presents a great opportunity to invest in businesses and technology aimed at tackling climate change. We must produce an abundance of clean, renewable energy and drive further innovation to make the next generation of energy more efficient. It will benefit the environment, our society and the economy."
Founder, Bridgewater Associates
Founder and Chief Executive, Dangote Group
"The Industrial Revolution was as much an energy revolution as a mechanical one. And while rightly called a revolution it wasn’t instantaneous but involved an extended transformation in technology, innovation, practices, attitudes and policies that fed into and reinforced one another to generate positive externalities for the world economy. The world urgently needs a new economic revolution driven yet again by adaptations in energy utilization, only this time with a greater consciousness of the environment and resource conservation. The high investment risk climate and upfront capital cost of energy investments, particularly renewables, are critical barriers to the development of energy markets. These require innovative financing mechanisms and innovative technology, combined with regulatory and policy interventions, to for instance close the estimated US$547 Billion investment needed to deliver universal energy access to all the countries in Africa by the year 2030."
General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
"We must rethink and reinvent our policies, technologies, businesses and behaviors for a zero-carbon energy future. And we must do so with speed—and at scale. I'm proud to join this group committed to find, fund, and accelerate these vital innovations for the world."
Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
"We need to move to sources of energy that are affordable and reliable, and don’t produce any carbon. The renewable technologies we have today, like wind and solar, have made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future. But given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths—and that means we also need to invent new approaches. Private companies will ultimately develop these energy breakthroughs, but their work will rely on the kind of basic research that only governments can fund. It is great to see so many government leaders and investors making these commitments and showing how the public and private sectors can come together to work on big problems. I am optimistic that we can invent the tools we need to generate clean, affordable, reliable energy that will help the poorest improve their lives and also stop climate change. I hope even more governments and investors will join us."
Founder, LinkedIn and Partner, Greylock
"Attempts to solve global problems frequently fail because they require collective action from governments, universities, and the private sector. Producing large-scale, reliable, affordable, and carbon-free energy is one of these key global problems. The swords that cut this Gordion Knot: breakthrough technologies built and deployed by entrepreneurial companies with global scope. Making the right investments in the right innovations now is essential to solving this energy challenge for current and future generations across the planet."
Founder, The Children's Investment Fund
"I fully support the efforts of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to help drive innovation in critical technologies necessary to fight the climate change battle. I have devoted my life to help children in poverty in developing countries but this work is every day made more difficult by global warming which impacts food security, access to water and health."
Founder, Khosla Ventures
Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group
"We should not waste precious time placing blame for today’s environmental challenges. What we need to do is solve the problem together. A solution and a way forward will only come about by combining the efforts of government, private sector, scientists, sociologists, and philanthropists. We must work together to create the tools necessary to combat climate change for this generation and those to come after."
Founder and Executive Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM)
"Africa's future is bright. To realize its full potential, the continent needs access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. The lack of access to reliable energy, limits the quality of life and potential for rapid economic development. We need an energy transformation driven by strong partnerships between business and governments, breakthrough innovations and the scale-up of investments that will reduce carbon emissions and meet the growing energy needs."
Founder, Iliad Group
Co-founder and Chairman, SAP
"Erneuerbare Energien sind die Antwort auf den Klimawandel und essenziell für die Bevölkerung in den Ländern der Dritten Welt. So gefährdet der Klimawandel vor allem Landwirte, die auf eine ertragreiche Ernte angewiesen sind, um ihre Familien zu versorgen. Was wir brauchen sind erschwingliche, verlässliche und CO2-reduzierte Energien, um eine nachhaltige Lösung globaler Klimaprobleme zu erreichen. Daher sollten künftige Investitionen die Deckung des wachsenden Energiebedarfs und gleichzeitig den Ausbau grüner, erneuerbarer Energie fördern."
"Renewable energy addresses climate change and is essential for third world countries. The impact of climate change jeopardizes in particular farmers, who rely on bountiful harvest to support their families. What we need is cost-efficient, reliable and carbon-free energy to reach a sustainable solution to global climate problems. Thus, future investments should be a response to the growing demand for energy and at the same time encourage the development of green and renewable energy."
Founder and Chairman, Tiger Management
Founding Managing Partner, Sequoia Capital China
"Technology has changed the way people live and work with many great Internet applications and it can play the same role in addressing climate change and energy issues. Private investors can bridge gaps between research developments and commercial products by backing visionary entrepreneurs in their early pursuits. China is well positioned to contribute its share of great technologies and innovations, like it has already done in the field of information technology, to solve the global climate issue and energy dilemma."
Nat Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons
Co-founders, Prelude Ventures
Founder, Chairman and CEO, SoftBank Group Corp.
Chairman, Soros Fund Management LLC
Businessman, Philanthropist, and President, NextGen Climate
"Climate change is the challenge of our generation, but solving this crisis is an incredible opportunity to innovate and lead the world. Many of the solutions are already at hand but now, more than ever, we need a strong partnership between the public and private sectors to support the pioneering R&D that will accelerate our transition to a fully clean energy economy."
Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons
CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Ms. Zhang Xin and Mr. Pan Shiyi
Co-founder and CEO, SOHO China Chairman, SOHO China
"Combating Climate Change is not just the responsibility of one person, or one Environmental Protection Bureau alone. It is a problem that can only be solved if everyone works towards a solution. It is important to change your own lifestyle, to live a healthier and more environmentally friendly life, and it is important for businesses to make strategic decisions to promote energy saving and decrease harmful emissions."
—Ms. Zhang Xin
"Those of us living in modern society should have the courage to undertake responsibility for energy sustainability. One of the groups with the most responsibility is the real estate developers. Buildings consume a third to one half of all the energy that is consumed in a city. Just imagine that buildings "eat" half of our "food supply." If we can regulate energy consumption by buildings, then we have solved half of the energy issues faced by cities. This is why we launched the SOHO China Energy Saving Center in 2013."
—Mr. Pan Shiyi
Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan
Founder, Chairman and CEO, Facebook Pediatrician and CEO, The Primary School