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Bill Gates sees dramatic shift in energy transition

Oct 18, 2022
Bill Gates with thought bubbles that look like Earth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bill Gates weighed in on the state of the global energy transition during the Breakthrough Energy Summit in Seattle.

Why it matters: Gates' firm, Breakthrough Energy, and its associated venture capital arm, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, are among the most active investors and advocates pursuing climate-friendly technology.

Driving the news: Gates points to the rapid onset of private investment in climate technology and clean energy — nearly $70 billion in venture capital across more than 1,300 startups over the past two years — as evidence that investors' attitudes around clean tech have shifted in a dramatic way.

  • Areas that required large investments in R&D — Gates gives long-term battery storage as one example — are seeing more investment and fuller pipelines of upcoming projects than in previous years as private investors shied away from the potential risks.

Yes, and: Gates outlines Breakthrough Energy Ventures' all-hands-on-deck model that makes multiple investments in a single category in the hopes that one is commercially viable.

Meanwhile, Gates also pointed to soaring public investment in clean energy technologies and project development as another key indicator that the once nascent movement is gearing up for exponential growth.

  • "More importantly, [the legislation] will spur hundreds of new clean energy projects and mobilize trillions more in private investment, including — crucially — in what are known as demonstration projects," Gates writes in a blog post outlining his keynote.

What he's saying: "Humanity has never had all these raw materials in front of us before: the investment, the policy, the pipeline of innovations, the overall public awareness that climate change is a priority," Gates says.

The bottom line: Gates advocates for a layered approach that continues to invest in clean energy at the private and public levels, while also increasing funding toward resiliency measures to address the current effects of climate change.

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