A group of tech billionaires launched a coalition for clean energy on the eve of the UN Climate Conference. Their goal is to accelerate the switch to renewable energy by investing private capital in research, development and demonstration. They believe that with the right support from the private and public sectors, more clean energy concepts will be able to evolve from ideas to economically viable technologies.
On Sunday evening, just a few hours before the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition on his Facebook page. The international coalition includes thirty well-known and extremely wealthy investors such as Bills Gates, Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Jack Ma (Alibaba Group). The objective of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition is simple and ambitious: radically transform the energy sector.
“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.”
- Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
The members of the coalition wish to accelerate progress towards a low-carbon future by funding early stage companies with promising ideas. Investments will be made based on five basic principles: invest early, invest broadly, invest boldly, invest widely, invest together. In doing so, they hope to help visionaries bring their ideas from the concept stage to the commercialisation stage, a step so often unsuccessful that it is known as the ‘Valley of Death’.
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition aims to complement governmental action rather than replace it. In fact, the day after the coalition was made public, the governments of 20 countries released a joint statement announcing the launch of Mission Innovation which sees participating nations commit to doubling their investments in clean energy research over the next five years. The quasi-simultaneous launches of the two initiatives are no coincidence. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition states that it will prioritise investments in countries whose governments have committed to Mission Innovation. Similarly, Mission Innovation participants give an accolade to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition in their launch statement and encourage investments from other private sector partners.
The launch of these two clean energy initiatives is more relevant than ever as the world follows the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, hoping for an agreement that will help us limit our impact on the planet. Just a few days ago, the World Meteorogical Organization announced that 2015 is likely to be the hottest year on record. If there was ever a time to invest in radical new ideas and break humanity’s addiction to hydrocarbons, it is now.