Icons team up for Breakthrough in climate fight
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.
(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.