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Bill Gates Announces A New $1 Billion Clean Energy Fund (fortune.com) 121

And "he's got several billionaire pals on board." An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Nearly two dozen of the world's most successful business leaders, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists will invest up to $1 billion in a fund led by Microsoft-co-founder Bill Gates that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by financing emerging clean energy technology. The Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund includes John Doerr, chairman of venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla, former energy hedge fund manager John Arnold, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, and SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner...

The new fund, which will have a 20-year lifespan, is designed to be both broad and scientific -- two seemingly contradictory focuses -- in its investment approach. The fund will not be confined to a specific segment of the investment pipeline, which means it will put money into startups at the earliest of stages all the way to companies that have reached commercialization.

Gates said Sunday that "Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world."
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Bill Gates Announces A New $1 Billion Clean Energy Fund

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  • And "he's got several billionaire pals on board."

    Just like the President elect.

  • I guarantee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    By the year 2050 we will still be running coal, natural gas, and oil fired power plants. Fossil fuel generation will still be greater than 50% of all electric generation.

    We may be forced into electric cars, or hybrids, but they won't be replacing power generation with zero emissions technology that quickly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      By the year 2050 we will still be running coal, natural gas, and oil fired power plants. Fossil fuel generation will still be greater than 50% of all electric generation.

      You think?

      Why just this morning, I watched an oil report on Bloomberg TV about the natural declines in oi production in many countries. And there was that huge discovery in Texas last month.

      And consider that even though it wasn't a regulatory requirement, many power plants switched to Natural Gas - cheap Natural Gas is what is kill coal: not the EPA as some Republicans insist.

      Here's my predication: as oil supplies dwindle, its cost will go up. As "green" technology improves, its costs will go down.

      At one

      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

        The EPA probably did have something to do with killing coal. Oh, sure, it took cheap natural gas to drive the last nail into the coffin, but you pretty much can't build new coal plants in this country - and existing ones have simply been expanding - for decades - based on an emmissions loophole for grandfathered plants.

        But the death of coal is a good thing. Coal is the dirtiest fuel around. Mining employs way fewer workers than it used to - and destroys the environment way more than it used to. And yes,

      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        Here's my predication: as oil supplies dwindle, its cost will go up. As "green" technology improves, its costs will go down.

        And during the whole process, politicians will use rent seeking to take from the poor and give to the rich.

    • Re:I guarantee (Score:5, Insightful)

      by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday December 12, 2016 @09:07AM (#53468343)

      And you base this on what exactly ? Blind faith ?
      Considering that for every power plant you could build with fossil fuels a renewable plant will cost less and be done in 2 years rather than 15, and deliver cheaper electricity - that seems unlikely. And those numbers are *right now* - we can expect the price of renewables to drop and keep dropping, there is almost no chance of fossil fuel generators getting cheaper.

      Sheer political malfeasance could achieve that outcome - but nothing else could.

      Only an insane person (or a politician who took a very big bribe) would replace an aging fossil plant with a new fossil plant today. It makes no economic sense.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I guess you haven't heard about natural gas. Gas fired plants are being built hand over fist.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          I guess you haven't heard about natural gas. Gas fired plants are being built hand over fist.

          This is why Slashdot moderation sucks. The above post is a very good rebuttal of the parent. Maybe should have included a citation like this [eia.gov]. Yet as of now it languishes at -1 moderation while the pseudo-intellectual parent gets +5.

          As for how much capital it takes to build a plant and the required lead time, go read the pdf available from here [eia.gov]. Reading the table seems sure doesn't seem to corroborate the facts silentcoder promotes.

      • Sure for KWh pricing renewables are doing very well but they still suck in the reliability department. Solar in Germany generates exactly 0% of Germany's peak power demand. (Germany's peak is in the winter after 18:00, when the sun has set). Wind provides the most energy to the grid in Ontario, Pennsylvania and Ohio in the late evening in January and February, when our demand is lowest. This frequently causes the price of electricity to go negative. Coal maybe on the way out but natural gas energy prod
      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        With today's energy storage technology, for every watt of solar or wind power we build, we must also have a watt of fossil-fuel power built as well. This is because those renewable sources aren't guaranteed 24/7. Nuclear doesn't work here because it is too slow to throttle up and down. So if you make a 1.21 gigawatt solar plant, you need a 1.21 gigawatt gas-fired plant as well.

        We need to invest in new energy storage technologies before the solar/wind payoff can completely replaced fossil fuels. The rene

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      I think it depends on how much land rising sea levels reclaim. All hail Poseidon.

    • And yet, America has in 8 short years gone from 65-72% fossil fuel with 55% coal and then 10-18% Nat gas, to around 55% fossil fuel, with around 23-25% coal and 30-32% Nat gas. And if trump allows exports of oil and Nat gas, both will jump in price here. Combined with nuke SMR and wind/solar going lower in costs, fossil fuel will continue to disappear in America.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nucular from the '50's' works as good today and tomorrow as it always have. Trust me. I know. I am a nucular enginer in charged of safeney.

    • by mrvan ( 973822 )

      Nucular from the '50's' works as good today and tomorrow as it always have. Trust me. I know. I am a nucular enginer in charged of safeney.

      I can see "nucular" as being sort of witty (or at least a cheap dig at the previous POTUS), but I would hope that an "enginer in charged of safeney" could pay a little bit more attention to detail...

  • ... with google: https://hardware.slashdot.org/... [slashdot.org] ?
  • We will never reach zero CO2 emissions.

    Maybe we can reach zero net emissions through sequestration, but as long as we build with reasonable structural materials, we will not have zero emissions. I'm still not sure zero net emissions is quite the same thing as zero emissions either.

    Also, it does take a whopping amount of energy to sequester emissions, so it's an interesting economic exercise to consider the energy investment of sequestration versus the cost of dealing with climate change. It's one of those

    • You may be right - but it is not relevant to the story at all even if you are since the story is about this particular investment fund which is solely focused on emissions from energy generation. There is no reason we can't have zero emissions in that (much narrower) subfield of human activity.

      Which is however such a massive part of total emissions that achieving their goal would likely put us back within the levels of emission that nature can absorb and adapt to with minimal impact on us.

      And your mistake i

      • by Hodr ( 219920 )

        Just last month a massive avalanche killed loads of innocent people - and that one has been fairly conclusively linked to climate change. Such events will only get more common as glaciers melt.

        Patently false. Once the glaciers have melted and there is no more snow accumulation, avalanche frequency will severely decrease.

  • Bill Gates, et. al, have the approach to the problem that's more likely to succeed.

    Carbon credits have the workable idea of making it profitable to lessen production of green-house gases, but it attempts this by creating artificial incentives to control the actions of businesses. Such heavy-handed interference is almost always short-term and rife with the usual faults politically mandated solutions bring to the table.

    On the other hand, if using clean energy can be made to actually be significantly chea
    • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday December 12, 2016 @09:24AM (#53468425)

      > if using clean energy can be made to actually be significantly cheaper and more convenient

      Done and dusted then. Clean energy is already significantly cheaper than fossil energy (solar to coal difference is massive already: solar plant costs per kilowhat hour is now roughly half of what it is for fossil plants), and convenience ? It takes 5 to 7 years to bring a coal plant online, and that's assuming everything happens on schedule - 15 years in practice is not unheard off (and nuclear STARTS there).
      A typical solar plant of the same capacity takes 2 years to build, and they are almost always on time, require less manpower to maintain and have fewer outages and far fewer safety concerns at every level.

      And that's without even considering the hidden costs like the healthcare for all the millions of people who get respiratory illnesses when you build a coal plant in their town.

      The trouble is there is ALREADY massive and heavy-handed government intervention: in favour of fossil fuels. Intervention which has proven to be politically almost impossible to be remove since the 'party of small government' and it's ilk around the world abandon all their rhetoric when it comes to defending the donors in that industry from upstart competitors who are cheaper, more reliable and cleaner. The market isn't free and doesn't operate like a free market - so your claims about what a free market would do has no relevance to any discussion about the energy market.
      Now since we can't get rid of the political influence on one side, the best we can try to achieve is to gain equal or greater political influence on the OTHER side so the two can cancel each other out.
      Arguably there are good reasons the market isn't free. Fossil fuel production requires massive capital investment with a very low per-unit profit margin, and any economist will tell you that is the definition of a natural monopoly. They always have local monopolies because a market CANNOT exist between them - it's mathematically impossible.
      So, it's quite sound economics, when you are facing a natural monopoly industry to actually get government involved - since there is going to be a monopoly anyway, you can make it official and extract some good concessions to mitigate the worst effects of that monopoly from consumers.

      The problem happens when eventually new technology arrives which changes the numbers. Fossil fuels are not natural monopolies, they can be done on smaller scales, different types can coexist and compete - the initial investment is relatively low.
      Suddenly there is the possibility of a market that didn't exist for the previous 120 years. But the things done during that 120 years, are proving harder to undo than would be ideal.

      • by mlts ( 1038732 )

        I like the idea of nuclear plants for a core source... but the beauty of solar is its innate idiot resistance. Pretty much, panels are put on assemblies, the panels are wired to inverters, inverters are wired to the grid... done. For offline panels, add a battery bank, charger, and inverter. Yes, one can add things like multi axis trackers, but there isn't much that solar panels really need, except perhaps blowing the snow off of them in winter. Upkeep costs are very minimal because there are no moving

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Please cite facts on solar energy vs. coal vs. CCNG vs. Wind

        I was an energy analyst up until less than a year ago and the subsidized cost per MWh of energy is ordered as follows: Coal (cheapest), CCNG, Wind, Solar (most expensive).

        Coal is actually anti-subsidized. Plants are being shut down not because the cost of energy is higher but because the costs of regulatory compliance is too high. The power company would have to add wind / solar to the feet to meet carbon regulations so instead they shutter the co

        • Coal is actually anti-subsidized.

          The unpriced externalities of pollution and carbon emissions are effectively a coal subsidy we are all paying with our health and the future economic and environmental consequences of climate change.

          And it is true that you cannot go 100% solar+wind without storage, but the technology is here today. It's not a matter of waiting 10 or 20 years for technology to magically improve, it will improve a bit over that time period but probably nothing dramatic. There is nothing terr

        • Please cite facts on solar energy vs. coal vs. CCNG vs. Wind

          Sure. See Table 1b in this EIA report [eia.gov]. To summarise:

          Geothermal: 45.0
          Advanced Gas CC: 57.2
          Wind: 64.5
          Hydroelectric: 67.8
          Solar PV: 84.7
          Advanced Gas CC with CCS: 84.8
          Biomass: 96.1
          Advanced Nuclear: 102.8
          Advanced Coal with CCS: 139.5
          Wind (Offshore): 158.1
          Solar Thermal: 235.9

          Total levelised cost values in 2015 dollars per MWh, not including tax credits.

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Rather than repeat myself: same point, made elsewhere in this story:
        https://hardware.slashdot.org/... [slashdot.org]

        In-short: solar and wind aren't cheaper... yet.

  • In other news.... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 )

    People living under "green energy" recoil in horror as energy prices go [powerauthority.on.ca] through the roof due to FiT programs. [fraserinstitute.org] Progressives continue to wonder [www.cbc.ca] why all those people don't vote for them and, tell their friends [www.cbc.ca] that they know what's best for everyone.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Fossil fuel power stations do not have to pay for the shit they pump into the air, rivers and sea, so they're already being subsidised by the national health problems they cause down the road. Tell them to clean up their shit first, and then let's compare costs.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Fossil fuel power stations do not have to pay for the shit they pump into the air, rivers and sea, so they're already being subsidised by the national health problems they cause down the road. Tell them to clean up their shit first, and then let's compare costs.

        Bzzt. Costs area already included in Canada, there is a mandatory fund that all power producers and industries must pay into to cover any form of cleanup costs. I know, it hurts that green energy myth that you're pushing that fossil power stations do not have to clean up stuff. But be less ignorant.

  • I'd love to see this go to any or all of the dozen or so dark-horse fusion efforts: polywell, general fusion, tri-alpha, lockheed-martin, etc.
  • This is a great initiative and I applaud Bill Gates and the rest for spearheading this, but I can't help but feel like this is giving government and industry and an easy way out of doing what they should have been doing themselves already.
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      This is a great initiative and I applaud Bill Gates and the rest for spearheading this, but I can't help but feel like this is giving government and industry and an easy way out of doing what they should have been doing themselves already.

      Well, probably -- but it doesn't seem likely that they were going to do the right thing anyway.

      If you can imagine The Donald reading this article and saying "Great! Thanks to Bill Gates, I'm now off the hook and no longer have to worry about climate change", you've got a better imagination than I do. He was already off the hook, by virtue of Not Giving a F*ck.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Monday December 12, 2016 @10:06AM (#53468693)

    You can have energy sources that are:

    1. Reliable

    2. Affordable

    3. Environmentally friendly...

    Just like you can choose hardware that is:

    1. Reliable

    2. Affordable

    3. High Performance

    The problem here is that you can only pick two out of three...

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Give it a little time. Wind is already cheaper than most other forms of energy, and add in some batteries and it becomes super reliable too.

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Unfortunately once you add in the batteries, they are no longer cheaper. We need some research to address this. Flywheels? Some kind of more efficient water storage?

      • Don't you think that batteries would help out other forms of energy too?

        A big problem with coal, nuclear, or any other energy that relies on boiling water is that it does not load follow well. The way this is dealt with now is with expensive and not very fuel efficient natural gas turbines. If there is a battery system that can store up the cheap boiling water energy and release it during peaks then the boiling water energy starts to look cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable.

        I do not believe that grid scal

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      Would it be terribly inconsiderate of me to point out that by the standards of even a decade ago, my home computer is very reliable, very affordable, and extremely high performance?

      There's no reason energy sources can't eventually check all of the boxes either; it's just a matter of time and effort to get there.

      • Not inconsiderate at all...

        But still, you pick two in terms of what's available today. It's always been this way and will always be. I dare say your home computer is cheap and reliable like mine, but it's nowhere near the peak performance available today. In fact, I'm willing to bet that even the best performing PC system you could build from off the shelf parts today still is a far cry cheaper than a "high performance" system of the same reliability currently available... You always get two of the three.

        • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

          True, but irrelevant, since the level of computing performance I realistically can make use of doesn't grow significantly from one year to the next. Once computers became "fast enough", (let's say, around 2010, software-bloat issues notwithstanding), they remain "fast enough", and the fact that people with greater needs (or enthusiasm) still have the option of paying more to get additional computing power doesn't effect me one way or the other.

          • You must not run Windows or the more recent games... In my experience with computers (which is considerable at this point), starting with old thumb switched program boot loaders and magnetic drum drive through modern super computers, I can tell you that as processing power increases, so does the processing power required by the applications we run.

            So, yea, my smart phone could likely do the whole of Bletchley Park breaking of the German's enigma machine in a few seconds a day, but it wasn't available, and

  • by Brian Stretch ( 5304 ) * on Monday December 12, 2016 @10:44AM (#53468999)

    I hope they throw some money towards developing LFTRs. If you have a couple of hours this Thorium Remix 2016 [youtube.com] documentary is AMAZING.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The whole fund is only $1bn, a small fraction of what is needed to get LFTR off the ground. Maybe if someone came up with a way to dramatically cut the cost it might be worth investing in.

      • Maybe if someone came up with a way to dramatically cut the cost it might be worth investing in.

        You mean like how if we could figure out how to make wind cheaper it might be worth investing in? I thought the investment in wind was to figure out how to make it cheaper. Along the same lines we should be investing in LFTR to find a way to make it cheaper.

        Also, if you ask any nuclear engineer about what makes a nuclear reactor so expensive they will tell you it's the government fees and licensing costs. No technology development will fix that, those costs are a political problem. We can fix those at a

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          That's what I mean. Propose something that will make LFTR cheaper and maybe it will be worth funding, but just throwing money at developing the technology into something that can work at commercial scale is a waste of time, especially if you only have $1bn.

          If by "government fees" you mean "priceless insurance", then yes, I guess those are quite expensive. Literally priceless, in fact. How do you propose making licencing fees go away, just ignore the patents?

  • At least they did the easy work of identifying who is against the US.

  • Three cheers for Mr. Gates and some others for taking some action, but it seems like marketing and self-protection. Quoting http://www.b-t.energy/unsolici [www.b-t.energy]... [www.b-t.energy]

    "Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC) and Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) do not accept or consider unsolicited ideas, suggestions, information, or materials of any nature whatsoever (“submissions”) and we request that you don’t provide submissions to us. The purpose of this policy is to avoid misunderstandings and d

  • "Broad and Scientific" are not contradictory poses.

    Broad - accept any solution that might be out there.
    Scientific - thoroughly research said solutions for suitability with regards to many factors.

    Perhaps Forbes was thinking of "Broad and Specific", which would indeed be somewhat contradictory.

  • And cheap too: have fewer people.

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