On Monday, Bill Gates will announce one of the largest clean-energy partnerships in history, according to a new report in ClimateWire. The partnership will be focused on researching and deploying new sources of carbon-free energy, funded by billions of dollars from Gates and other philanthropists. At the same time, a coalition of nations including the United States and India have agreed to double their research and development funding for clean energy research. The announcement is timed to the United Nation's annual summit on climate change, which will take place in Paris beginning on Monday. "This is the single biggest cooperative research and development partnership in history," a source told Greenwire.
The Gates Foundation doesn't invest in energy technology, focusing instead on anti-poverty work that's unlikely to yield a return. Still, Gates has recently hinted at plans to invest as much as $2 billion of his personal fortune in zero-carbon energy technologies. His goal, as laid out in a 2010 TED talk, is to allow humanity to reach zero global carbon emissions in the next 35 years, a goal that will require huge advances in nuclear, solar, and wind power. "Right now, the world spends only a few billion dollars a year on researching early-stage ideas for zero-carbon energy," Gates wrote after the earlier announcement. "It should be investing two or three times that much."
"This is the single biggest cooperative research and development partnership in history."
The details of the new fund are still unclear, but Gates has invested in a number of ambitious energy technologies in the past, and expressed interest in a number of others. One Gates investment, Terrapower, focuses on small, sodium-cooled nuclear reactors, which could use depleted uranium for fuel. Gates has also mentioned solar chemical fuels as an area of interest, using solar energy to manufacture hydrocarbon-based fuels that would be effectively carbon-neutral. He has also expressed interest in high-altitude wind farms, which would use airborne crafts to harvest wind energy. Given the ambitious goal and the significant funding behind it, even exotic energy schemes are likely to see substantial seed investments.
In an interview with The Atlantic earlier this month, Gates laid out a mix of ambitious ideas as his ideal approach. "We want to give a little bit of money to the guy who thinks that high wind will work; we want to give a little bit of money to the guy who thinks that taking sunlight and making oil directly out of sunlight will work," Gates said. "There’s dozens of those ideas, and there’s enabling technologies for those ideas. That’s the kind of thing that we should be funding more of."