Bill Gates calls for 'energy miracle’

Greg Nash

Microsoft founder Bill Gates said this week that the world needs an “energy miracle” if it’s going to solve climate change. 

In the Gates Foundation's annual letter, Gates laid out what he considers the basic issue facing the world: the need to provide more energy, to more parts of the world, with lower carbon emissions than we have today. 

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Gates wrote that there has to be a way to cut down on those emissions while also providing enough energy to meet future population increases. The solution, he said, would need to be “more powerful, more economic solutions” beyond just current work on cutting the cost of wind and solar power and expanding battery technology.

“In short, we need an energy miracle,” he wrote. 

“However, time is not on our side. Every day we are releasing more and more CO2 into our atmosphere and making our climate change problem even worse. We need a massive amount of research into thousands of new ideas — even ones that might sound a little crazy — if we want to get to zero emissions by the end of this century.”

Governments, he said, have a role to play in brokering this “miracle,” noting federal funding helped lead to new cancer treatments, the moon landing and the Internet. 

“The challenge we face is big, perhaps bigger than many people imagine,” Gates wrote.

“But so is the opportunity. If the world can find a source of cheap, clean energy, it will do more than halt climate change. It will transform the lives of millions of the poorest families.”

Gates and 28 other wealthy individuals launched the Breakthrough Energy Coalition last year to provide funding for clean-energy technologies. In an interview with Bloomberg, he said he’s concerned traditional venture capitalists might not be patient enough to invest in the energy sphere, even if he sees a huge potential payoff for investors. 

“There is a $3 trillion market per year for buying energy that is bigger than any prize anyone can come up with,” he said. 

“But the time it takes to develop this technology means you need slightly more patient capital. The normal venture capitalist model that has worked for biotech and worked for software is not quite right here.”