Bill Gates is on the hunt for 2 kinds of startups as his fund puts another $1 billion into climate tech

Bill Gates

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If you want to make an impact in the fight against climate change, investing in solar and wind projects is no longer good enough, Bill Gates said in an interview with Insider. 

Those investments aren’t risky, and the returns are no different than projects in other parts of the economy, said the Microsoft cofounder and author of the forthcoming book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. 

“That’s not causing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” Gates told Insider last month.

Real impact lies in the higher-risk bets, he said, or in technologies that require more investment to become cost-competitive with their carbon-emitting alternatives. Energy from wind and solar sources has now reached that point, and it can sometimes even be cheaper than power from coal or natural gas. 

Higher risk, higher climate-reward is the strategy behind Gates’ VC firm, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. The fund, which counts investors like Jack Ma and Vinod Kholsa as board members, recently raised its second billion-dollar fund. 

Insider asked Gates about which technologies he thought deserved more attention. He shared two kinds of startups working on tough challenges that BEV is looking to fund as it builds out its portfolio. 

Gates is looking to drive down the cost of direct-air capture

Gates says the next round will zero in on two buzzy technologies: Direct-air capture and green hydrogen. It may also include some companies focused on reducing emissions in building materials, such as steel and cement. 

Direct-air capture, or DAC, is the process of pulling carbon dioxide out of ambient air, typically to store permanently or recycle into other products. It falls under the broader category of carbon capture and storage, a tool that experts say we’ll need to curb global warming. 

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DAC, specifically, is appealing because you can put the machines anywhere, not just next to a polluting factory. But it comes with some major drawbacks, which Gates hopes to eliminate by supporting startups working on new approaches. 

The most obvious challenge is that it’s really expensive — at least $200 per ton of carbon, according to Gates. (Some researchers say it’s much more.)

“With some innovation, I think we can realistically expect it to get down to $100 per ton,” he wrote in the book, which is set to publish later this month. 

Gates said he’s the largest investor in the DAC startup Carbon Engineering, one of 46 companies that VCs told Insider are set to pop this year. He’s also a major funder of DAC across the board.

“I’m not aware of anyone who’s investing more in direct-air capture,” he wrote. 

Fellow billionaire Elon Musk, however, may give Gates a run for his money. The Tesla chief has promised to put $100 million of his own money into a prize for the best carbon capture technology (though the prize will consider approaches beyond direct-air capture.)

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Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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