by Deedee Chao
Right before the UN COP21 climate talks in Paris in December, Bill Gates announced the formation of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, comprised of 28 billionaires that would commit to investing in clean energy technologies. While this looks like an important step forward for the future of green energy, critics have pointed out a number of issues with the Coalition. For example, Fortune’s Dan Primack calls the Coalition a “work in progress” as it lacks any investment fund professionals, pledges by the billionaires involved, or a decided financial structure [http://fortune.com/2015/12/01/bill-gates-clean-energy-plan-isnt-ready-for-primetime/]. Two months later, no hiring, pledges, or news of any sort has been revealed- and the lack of pledges could be a cause for concern, as some of the “investors” have no track record in supporting green energy or environmentalism of any kind.
Other critics, such as The Ecologist’s Linda Pentz Gunter, question why the Coalition is not invested in mass-deploying the green technologies already invented by lobbying governments and producing wind, solar, and geothermal energy generating systems instead throwing their money into more research, making for a longer wait before any kind of implementation takes place [http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2986571/is_gatess_breakthrough_energy_coalition_a_nuclear_spearhead.html]. Interestingly, Gates has addressed the issue of energy poverty before, in June 2014, and if he still prioritizes the need for cheap energy for developing countries, then this Coalition could very well be a tool with which to improve the energy situation for these millions of individuals- except that in 2014 Gates didn’t seem to believe that energy could be both cheap and green, and it remains to be seen if his views on that front have changed [https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/Two-Videos-Illuminate-Energy-Poverty-Bjorn-Lomborg].
At the moment, however, the Coalition has not revealed its plans, with its site only stating its investment principles, and it remains to be seen whether any of this fund’s money will be put towards production of already-available technologies, or if all of it will be going towards research. It seems like we’ll have a while to wait before they come up with a concrete plan of action, and even longer before seeing any possible results of their investment in clean energy innovation.
Breakthrough Energy Coalition (http://www.breakthroughenergycoalition.com/en/index.html)
Gates, Bill. 2014. Two Videos That Illuminate Energy Poverty. GatesNotes. June 25, 2014. (https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/Two-Videos-Illuminate-Energy-Poverty-Bjorn-Lomborg)
Gunter, Lisa Pent. 2015. Is Gates’s ‘Breakthrough Energy Coalition’ a nuclear spearhead? The Ecologist. Dec 6, 2015. (http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2986571/is_gatess_breakthrough_energy_coalition_a_nuclear_spearhead.html)
Primack, Dan. 2015. Bill Gates’ Clean Energy Plan Isn’t Ready for Primetime. Fortune. Dec 1, 2015. (http://fortune.com/2015/12/01/bill-gates-clean-energy-plan-isnt-ready-for-primetime/)