Bill Gates and his fellow billionaires join forces to promote clean energy

A group of billionaires, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson, have agreed to collectively pony up $1 billion to back alternative energy ventures.

Kamil Zihnioglu/AP/File
Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, leaves after a meeting with France's President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris in June. An international group of institutions and wealthy executives, including Gates and Alibaba’s Jack Ma, announced Monday that they are committing $1 billion to an investment fund that will support emerging energy technologies with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill Gates, the world’s richest man and one of its most generous philanthropists, announced on Monday the launch of a $1 billion investment fund to support energy innovation.

By bringing together other wealthy entrepreneurs to invest in the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, Mr. Gates says the group "will finance emerging energy breakthroughs that can deliver affordable and reliable zero carbon emissions," reports USA Today.

Among the investors are Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive officer; Jack Ma, Alibaba executive chairman; Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group; John Doerr, an investor at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn; and Masayoshi Son, founder and head of SoftBank.

In addition to formalizing its $1-billion commitment, the group on Monday announced it's "Landscapes of Innovation" program, a tool outlining five sectors ripe for an energy overhaul designed to guide not only BEV in its investments but other public and private investors as well.

"Too often we let what we think we know limit what is possible. When it comes to energy, people say you cannot make money, meet demand, and also benefit the environment. But we can, and we will," Mr. Ma said in the statement. "This effort will combine technological innovation and scientific knowledge with the investment expertise needed to transform energy markets. Together, we'll remind the world that visionary ideas make wonderful realities."

Gates first announced his energy innovation project, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, at the climate-change summit in Paris in 2015.

"We need to bring the cost premium for being clean down," Gates told CNN at the time. "You need the innovation so that the cost of clean is lower than the coal-based energy generation."

According to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s website, the group will focus on innovation in electricity generation, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings. Among the clean energy investment criteria outlined on Monday by the coalition was that technologies have the potential to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by at least a half gigaton.

The new coalition already has partnered with a group of 20 countries – including the United States and the European Union – known collectively as Mission Innovation, that promised to double their investment in clean energy research over five years, as Forbes reports.

“The partnership that’s key to [bringing the cost of clean energy down] is governments funding basic research and private investors, like the group of 28 people I brought together to take the high-risk venture investments and turn those into products, so we can add clean energy that’s not more expensive than today’s hydrocarbon energy,” Gates told CNN in November 2015.

The fund announcement comes less than a week after President-elect Donald Trump confirmed the nomination Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a global warming skeptic, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Pruitt has argued that EPA’s rules to curb carbon emissions drive up electricity rates, undermine the nation's power grid and "create economic havoc." 

Mr. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the global Paris climate accord, a historical commitment made last year by dozens of countries to cut harmful carbon-dioxide emissions.

This report uses materials from the Associated Press.

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