Icons team up for Break­through in cli­mate fight

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By HE WEI in Shang­hai hewei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A group of 20 global busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy lu­mi­nar­ies will in­vest $1 bil­lion in a clean en­ergy fund to help com­bat global cli­mate change.

Spear­headed by Bill Gates, former CEO of Mi­crosoft Corp, the star-stud­ded lineup, which in­cludes Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd founder Jack Ma and real es­tate power cou­ple Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, pledged to fos­ter new en­ergy tech­nolo­gies in the pri­vate sec­tor.

The fund — Break­through En­ergy Ven­tures — is de­signed to in­vest over a 20-year pe­riod in early stage star­tups that de­liver emis­sion-free en­ergy, agri­cul­ture and goods to the world.

“The goal is to build com­pa­nies that will help de­liver the next gen­er­a­tion of re­li­able, af­ford­able, and emis­sions-free en­ergy to the world,” said Gates in a state­ment.

The fund will re­view prospec­tive tech­nolo­gies with re­gard to the po­ten­tial to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions, the abil­ity to at­tract cap­i­tal from other sources, and whether there ex­ists sci­en­tific proof of a con­cept that can be mean­ing­fully ad­vanced.

The fund sig­ni­fies con­certed ef­forts by peo­ple with pro- found knowl­edge in sci­ence, in­no­va­tion and the en­ergy mar­ket, Ma said in a state­ment to China Daily. He sits on the board of di­rec­tors of the fund.

“We usu­ally let our knowl­edge limit our recog­ni­tion of the fu­ture. When it comes to en­ergy, peo­ple say you can­not make money, and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment while reap­ing ben­e­fits. But we know we can and we will,” Ma said.

Face­book Inc founder Mark Zucker­berg is part of the fund. He said clean en­ergy is “es­sen­tial to solv­ing many of the world’s other prob­lems”.

Ama­zon.com Inc founder Jeff Be­zos, SoftBank Group Corp Chair­man Masayoshi Son and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoff­man are also in­vestors in the fund.

Tech com­pa­nies see re­new­able en­ergy as a nat­u­ral solution for data cen­ters, which are elec­tric­ity hun­gry, said Hao Zhi­wei, a Shang­hai-based an­a­lyst on the in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try.

“The likes of Mi­crosoft, Ama­zon and Alibaba own large-scale data cen­ters. Nearly half of the daily ex­pen­di­ture is on elec­tric­ity,” Hao said.

These cus­tomer-fac­ing com­pa­nies, which usu­ally have very high mar­gins, tend to pay “a lit­tle bit ex­tra” to earn green en­ergy ku­dos, ac­cord­ing to Jonathan Koomey, lec­turer at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, who spe­cial­izes in the en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy.

An MIT study in July re­vealed that ven­ture cap­i­tal firms invested more than $25 bil­lion from 2006 to 2011 on clean en­ergy, but lost more than half of that money.

“If a new and more di­verse set of ac­tors avoids the mis­takes of the clean-tech VC boom and bust, then they may be able to sup­port a new gen­er­a­tion of clean-tech com­pa­nies,” said Ben­jamin Gaddy, the lead au­thor of the MIT re­port.

CHINA DAILY AND REUTERS

(From left) former Mi­crosoft CEO Bill Gates, Chair­man of Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd Jack Ma, Soho China Ltd CEO Zhang Xin and Ama­zon.com Inc founder Jeff Be­zos are among the 20 global busi­ness lu­mi­nar­ies in­vest­ing in Break­through En­ergy Ven­tures.

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