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Breakthrough Energy eyes nuclear fusion for clean energy push

Jul 14, 2022

Axios reporter Megan Hernbroth and Breakthrough Ventures' Dr. Eric Toone. Image credit: Axios Insight virtual event/Allie Carl

Evolving forms of energy and decarbonizing the grid are two prime areas for investment opportunities, Dr. Eric Toone of Breakthrough Energy Ventures told Axios. The virtual interview was part of the Axios Pro Insight Series held by the Climate Deals news team.

Why he matters: Toone serves as executive managing director and technology lead for Breakthrough, the investment firm started by Bill Gates to focus on net-zero carbon emissions.

What he's seeing: Toone says there's too much focus on making cheap electricity and not enough on other forms of energy.

  • "We're going to have to look for other forms of baseload and dispatchable electricity. We very strongly believe that nuclear is going to have to be a part of that. I don't know about fission. We haven't done anything in fission mostly due to cost concerns. But we have multiple investments in fusion, for instance."

Yes, but: Some areas in the energy space are just not ripe for the kind of investment Breakthrough is focused on. Example: HVAC.

  • "I mean, we're still using the same vapor compression cycle that Carrier developed at the end of the last century. And we still haven't found a better approach to doing cooling. So buildings has been a tough space for us," Toone said.
  • He added that Breakthrough does have deals in this space, just not very many of them.

In addition: Another investment opportunity the firm is eyeing is storage.

  • "I think storage of renewable energy is now reaching the point where there are opportunities to roll that out, to deploy it and have a real impact on how we think about wind and solar and to move those to new sectors that they haven't been appropriate for in the past."
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