The University of California is looking to play a prominent role as Bill Gates and other billionaires from around the world form a new private fund that will invest in the development of large-scale carbon-free energy solutions.
The fund, announced Monday in connection with the climate change talks that opened in Paris, will be staffed by scientists and financial experts and will consider a wide array of investments -- including biofuels, solar and wind power and efforts to capture carbon emissions from fossil fuels, Gates said in a conference call with reporters.
“We’re unbiased, but it has to be clean and it has to have a chance of scaling up at a cost lower than today’s hydrocarbon-based energy sources,” the Microsoft co-founder said.
Gates was joined in the Monday call by Janet Napolitano, the president of the UC system, and Jagdeep Singh Bachher, who oversees the management of its approximately $100 billion in investments.
Napolitano said the decision to join the Gates group to address what she called the “climate crisis” was a reflection of the university’s mission as a public institution and would help align its investments with its research and environmental goals. UC has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025.
Gates said joining with the university was appealing because of its mission and broad reach and because it had offered to help fund the endeavor as it develops in the coming months. He said he expects other institutions to become involved in the coming months.
The announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition is linked to the effort announced by 20 governments, including the United States, to double their spending on new energy technology, to $20 billion, by 2020.
He also urged patience among investors. “This is not the IT space, where you write software in nine months and put it out in the Web,” he said.
“Moving fast in the energy space, you would hope that a number of these breakthroughs are ready for scale up within a decade. And then, if they get scaled up over the next two decades after that, become a significant part of the world’s energy system, then you make a very dramatic contribution to climate change,” he said.