At a time when reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global priority, Bill Gates has launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), a billion-dollar investment fund. It will finance cleaner technology to produce low-carbon energy. We will be mobilizing our expertise in support of this new initiative, and have been recognized as a technological and strategic partner to BEV.
What makes the BEV special and why could it become a key enabler for the future of energy?
It’s hard to get any new technology from the lab to the market. It’s especially hard with energy, because energy systems are so slow to change and the incentives aren’t always there. It takes a combination of scientific vision and practical experience building companies. BEV is unique because it has both the vision and the experience. It’s assembling a team of multi-disciplinary scientists and entrepreneurs to identify the ideas that are most promising, technically and commercially.
BEV is also bringing together a unique mix of risk-tolerant and patient investors who are committed to accelerating the commercialization of new energy technologies. Our investors are knowledgeable and experienced, and they bring extensive contacts in energy and related fields. BEV is eager to partner with research institutions and companies - like Total - that are delivering reliable and affordable energy so it can uncover the most promising technologies.
What do you expect from Total as a strategic partner to your initiative?
Industry partners like Total understand the energy business better than anyone else. They know how to deliver energy solutions reliably and affordably at scale, and they have the infrastructure to do so. In many cases I expect that industry partners will help scale and deliver the new technologies that BEV companies discover and develop. And I hope they will provide insight into which new technologies are most likely to succeed in the market.
What could private companies, in particular in the energy World, do better to support the fight against climate change?
By 2050, the world will be using 50 percent more energy than it does today, and it will need to meet that demand with sources that don’t contribute to climate change. That’s a big challenge, but we can do it if the world gets some big breakthroughs. Governments, research institutions, businesses, and private investors all have a role to play. For the private sector, that means taking great research, turning it into a great product, and creating a great company to bring a transformative technology to market. That’s a vital piece of the solution that no other part of our society can provide.
I encourage government leaders to raise R&D budgets, but the issue always needs more advocates making the case. So in addition to being partners in the work itself, energy companies can be great champions for governments investing in energy R&D.