Right now our Prime Minister is in France, set to discuss Australia’s renewable energy targets for the future in an effort to reduce our emissions and positively effect climate change. Back home our political parties are fighting over what our targets should be and the methods which will deliver those targets. While our politicians and governments talk, there’s a new partnership that is about to actually solve this global problem.
Today CEO and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla and Bill Gates are joining forces to create the ‘Breakthrough Energy Coalition’. This new coalition will use a scientific and technology-based solution to achieve real outcomes.
This coalition doesn’t stop there, it also features:
Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com,
Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon,
Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group,
Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group,
Hasso Plattner, Co-founder and Chairman of SAP,
Neil Shen, Founding Managing Partner of Sequoia Capital and
Meg Whitman, CEO of HP to name a few.
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.
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will invest in ideas that have the potential to transform the way we all produce and consume energy. As leaders prepare for the UN Climate Change Conference: in Paris this week, we hope this will encourage more partners to make innovation a priority in the fight against climate change.
Zuckerberg goes on to say that this coalition will invest in long-term projects that traditional companies and governments don’t fund. Private companies have core business to take care of and throwing money at a problem that won’t net them direct returns is never likely going to be sound business idea. Public companies face even more pressure to invest wisely in profitable endeavours to return funds to share holders. Government budgets are often not allocated further than 3 or 4 years and when we’re talking about a multi-generational problem, the solution is likely to take a little longer. A heavily funded coalition from the likes of Gates and Zuckerberg has the best chance yet of making a real difference to the planet.
Facebook has multiple social networks that are collectively used by more than 2 billion people, Gates is responsible for Windows and Office, also used by billions of people. I’m far more confident in these two high profile, high wealth individuals with a strong will to better the world and use technology to do it than anything that’s emerged from the mouths of our politicians.
Technology will help solve our energy issues.
If a massive part of the solution the collection and storage of solar energy to replace the hydrocarbons used to power our modern lifestyles, then Elon Musk’s efforts in solar storage is something should be investing in as a country. Officially the consumer version of PowerWall launches in Q1 of 2016 and the addressable market is around 1.5 million homes with existing solar panels. However the announcement of Powerwall was not only a large backpack for your garage at home, but a solution that scales for business and even government. If there’s a better, more efficient, more effective solution to the problem of reducing emissions from a developed nation like Australia that receives plentiful amounts of sunlight, I haven’t seen it.
Elon Musk, you need to join this Coalition.
Charity won’t solve climate change, and if Governments aren’t making the investments they need to, to solve this problem, the Break Through Coalition will. Here are their 5 criteria for investing and while I’m not a betting man, I’d put my money on this strategy every day of the week.
1. Invest Early
The most transformative ideas are emerging out of research institutions and the great capital gap is in getting these ideas out of the lab and on the path to commercialization. We’ll take a flexible approach to early stage, providing seed, angel and Series A investments, with the expectation that once these investments are de-risked, traditional commercial capital will invest in the later stages.
2. Invest Broadly
We don’t know where the best ideas will come from to transition the world to a near zero-emissions energy future, so we will invest across a number of sectors:
a. Electricity generation and storage;
c. Industrial use;
d. Agriculture; and
e. Energy system efficiency
3. Invest Boldly
We are looking for outliers both in developing novel technologies AND in innovations which enable current technologies to be dramatically more efficient, scalable, or cheaper. Whether core or enabling technology, the key differentiating factor must be a credible pathway to rapid scaling – providing affordable energy to the greatest number of people without overburdening essential resources including land use.
4. Invest Wisely
One of the challenges to effective financing in this area is a lack of depth in terms of technical review and analysis of underlying science and technology to guide investment decisions. To tackle this, we will work with a coalition of the world’s best minds, in partnership with leading public and private institutions, to guide investment decision-making.
5. Invest Together
Because the foundation of these innovations will likely come through government research pipelines, we will focus our investments on those countries that have committed to increase the size of those pipelines by participating in the international initiative known as Mission Innovation. Those countries are making a serious commitment to using smart government spending to increase the rate of innovation in their domestic innovation sector while helping the world find solutions to the serious problems created by climate change, high costs of power, and energy price volatility.
In this 2 minute video from the Gates Notes, Gates identifies the core problem with global emissions and the effect its having on our climate, but does what many government officials can’t, identify a solid path forward. Not to implement a band aid solution and appear as if you’re taking action to secure your seat at the next election, but real action that will lead to this problem being solved once and for all, without bankrupting entire nations.
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