As President-elect Donald Trump's climate-skeptic/pro-fossil fuels cabinet takes shape, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and other very wealthy and very influential individuals have launched a $1 billion fund dedicated to clean energy innovation.
Launching $1 billion investment fund for next generation energy technologies https://t.co/eWGZrcflaZ @btenergy… https://t.co/2ktjMKByvG— Richard Branson (@Richard Branson)1481555720.0
"Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable and emissions-free energy to the world," Gates said in a statement.
The Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund (BEV) will focus on five key areas that are the biggest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions: electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and buildings.
"Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we're open-minded to," Gates, who serves as BEV chairman, told Quartz.
I discuss with @qz a major announcement for @btenergy and our vision for the future... https://t.co/VJMZypx0X3— Bill Gates (@Bill Gates)1481504460.0
The fund, which has a 20-year duration, seeks to answer some of the most pressing questions facing our warming planet:
- How can we deliver reliable, affordable zero-carbon electricity to the world?
- How can we get around our communities and the world without emitting carbon?
- How can we feed the planet without contributing to climate change?
- How can we make everything we use without emitting greenhouse gases?
- How can we eliminate emissions from our homes, offices, hospitals, and schools?
Gates and his BEV co-directors—Alibaba's Ma, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, former energy hedge fund manager John Arnold and SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner—have a combined net worth of nearly $170 billion, according to estimates from Bloomberg and Forbes.
"Too often, we let what we think we know limit what is possible," Ma said in a statement. "When it comes to energy, people say you cannot make money, meet demand and also benefit the environment. But we can and we will."
Other BEV investors are some of the world's richest and most powerful, such as Richard Branson of Virgin Group Ltd., billionaire natural gas trader John Arnold, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Kingdom Holding, Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, Patrice Motsepe of African Rainbow Minerals, Xavier Niel of Iliad Group, Masayoshi Son of SoftBank, and Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi of SOHO China.
"The launch of the fund, a year after the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, comes at an important time as we try to accelerate the uptake of clean energy throughout the world," Virgin's Branson wrote in a company blog post. "The sustainable energy revolution is well underway, but we need new tools and solutions to help us reduce our carbon output and continue moving in the right direction."
"Breakthrough Energy Ventures is a wonderful way to expand this effort," Branson added.
Quartz writes that the BEV will likely expand its war chest as more like-minded backers hop onboard:
"The fund, which won't charge investors management fees beyond its operating costs, will likely start with a temporary office in the heart of the US venture capital industry on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, California. It's expected that the size of the initial fund will increase, with more investors coming on board, and it's possible that Breakthrough Energy Ventures eventually launches additional funds."
BEV will likely focus on energy storage technology for the first wave of investments, since improvements in renewable energy storage, such as batteries, expedite a transition to sustainable energy.
Gates first announced his intention to launch the fund at the Paris climate talks last year. The world's richest man and renowned philanthropist told Quartz that he is surprised that clean-energy innovation is not often mentioned as an option to fight climate change.
"All of that takes place just as a normal market mechanism as you replace energy sources with other ways to do it," Gates explained.
This week, a group of top tech executives from Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and more will reportedly meet with the president-elect at the so-called " tech summit."
"The dialogue with the new administration as it comes in about how they see energy research will be important," Gates told Quartz. "The general idea that research is a good deal fortunately is not a partisan thing."
Watch Gates talk about the importance of energy innovation and investment here:
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.