Bill Gates calls for investment in renewable energy innovation
Governments should ramp up investment in research to power innovation in renewable energy, says Bill Gates.
Philanthropist Bill Gates has called on governments to shift to funding research into renewable energies, instead of merely subsidising it.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Gates announced that he plans to double the investments he currently holds to $2 billion (£1.3 billion) over the next five years.
The billionaire revealed that he already holds investments that total around $1 billion (£650 million) in a number of early stage companies, in the hope that they will grow into “breakthrough” technologies. These investments include technologies such as innovative battery storage solutions, next-generation nuclear power and carbon capture techniques.
Amount of green research needs drastic increase
Mr Gates, the founder of the Microsoft Corporation, explained that government subsidies in renewable energy currently surpass $100 billion a year, but research and development into green technologies only amounts to $6 billion a year.
“Most of the people you talk to would say that we should double or triple the amount of renewables research and development,” Mr Gates told the FT.
“The only way you can get to the very positive scenario is by great innovation. Innovation really does bend the curve.”
The technologies that are currently available can only hope to lower the amount of CO2 emissions that the global society generates, Mr Gates argues. Therefore, the only option is to embark on “high-risk” investments in new technologies with the hope that one of them can provide the solution of the future.
Citing solar power as an example, he showed how current forms of renewables can’t hope to keep up with projected growth in energy demand by 2030.
“Solar is only during the day, solar only works best in places where it's warm. We don’t have perfect grids. We don’t have storage,” he said.
“There’s no battery technology that’s even close to allowing us to take all of our energy from renewables and be able to use battery storage in order to deal not only with the 24-hour cycle but also with long periods of time where it’s cloudy and you don’t have sun or you don’t have wind.”
He stressed that for renewable power to work the world needs a solution that can provide constant energy.
A new solution needed
“Power is about reliability. We need to get something that works reliably,” he explained.
Some of the promising alternative renewable technologies that the billionaire philanthropist pointed out included solar chemical, high-altitude wind power, and alternative nuclear power.
To conclude, Mr Gates compared the renewable technology industry to that of the burgeoning software scene from 40 years ago.
“If I came and talked to you about software in the late 1970s, I would tell you: ‘Hey, somebody’s going to make a lot of money. Now there’s a tonne of software companies whose names will never be remembered,” he said, before adding that those who happened to invest in Microsoft, Apple or Google “would have made lots of money”.