NEW YORK — Bill Gates has pulled together a multinational band of investors to put billions into clean energy.
The Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist is set to announce his latest endeavor, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, at the climate change summit in Paris alongside President Obama and French President Francois Hollande.
The fund will be fed by a group that spans more than two dozen public and private entities — including national governments, billionaire philanthropists, investment fund managers and tech CEOs.
“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,” Gates said in a statement.
Among the list of backers are Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Meg Whitman of HP and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson.
More than a dozen governments have also committed to double their spending on carbon-free energy development over the next five years.
“Private companies will ultimately develop these energy breakthroughs, but their work will rely on the kind of basic research that only governments can fund,” Gates added.
According to government data, the U.S. spends about $5 billion on energy R&D compared to $31 billion on health care research and nearly $70 billion on defense research.
There is no fund raising goal for private investors in the Gates initiative. But the fund represents billions in money to seed promising ideas in large-scale clean energy production.
The fund says it will invest broadly and focus on five key areas: electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial uses, agriculture and projects that make energy systems more efficient.
For example, Gates says more research is needed in new kinds of batteries — “flow batteries” — that he says hold more promise than current battery technology.
According to Gates, the goal is to spur new clean energy tech while combating climate change by “keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees.”
Reducing global reliance on fossil fuels also holds the potential for massive economic benefits, Gates added.
“It would help millions more people escape poverty and become more self-sufficient,” Gates wrote. “And it would stabilize energy prices, which will have an even bigger impact on the global economy as more people come to rely on energy in their daily lives.”