In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, the other great battle that Bill Gates has as a philanthropist is the fight against climate change. A goal for which it is essential, in his opinion, to find cheaper clean energy and thus eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The key to success, explained the millionaire in the latest Gates Notes article , is to it must already bet on the virtuous circle of innovation: repeating the case of the microwave oven.
The Microsoft co-founder recalls in his article that when the first microwave came on the market in 1955, it cost approximately $ 12,000 in today’s dollars. However, you can currently buy one at Walmart for $ 50. This price drop, Gates continues, is due to the virtuous cycle of innovation and consumption: as demand increases, more companies come into play, new ways are found to make products more efficiently, and prices fall. .
The billionaire relates that there are already some clean energy products that have already entered this virtuous circle, this is the case of solar energy. However, he laments that many are still not there. “Most green technologies are still more expensive than anything they try to replace, a cost difference that I call Green Premiums,” he says.
Bill Gates assumes this is bad news for the fight against climate change. In addition, while appreciating that governments are investing more money in ecological recovery programs and that people are increasingly willing to pay the Green Premium, he acknowledges that innovation does not come fast enough and therefore products are not being sold. coming back cheaper.
How to lower the price of clean energy
The billionaire says that to accelerate the virtuous circle of innovation, a new model is needed to finance, produce and buy new clean energy technologies. Specifically, he proposes the one being prepared by Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, a coalition of philanthropists, companies and governments, which has identified four energy areas where investment can soon bear great fruit. The four areas are:
1. Long-term energy storage to allow energy to be stored for months at a time, compared to the few days that today’s best batteries are capable of. A breakthrough in this area would make solar and wind power more practical in more places.
2. Sustainable aviation fuels that can power cargo planes and large passenger planes, which are too big and heavy to run on batteries.
3. Direct air capture to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We won’t be able to remove all carbon this way, but a cheaper way to do it would bring us much closer to the goal of zero by 2050.
4. Inexpensive green hydrogen. Hydrogen fuels are really promising – they can provide more power than batteries and could therefore be used to power large aircraft and industrial processes. Unfortunately, they are very expensive when manufactured in a way that does not emit more greenhouse gases.
This is how the BE Catalyst conglomerate will help
Bill Gates relates that the operation of BE Catalyst will be simple. Thus, he gives as an example a hypothetical company that wants to buy sustainable fuel, but that is still in short supply because it is produced expensively and it is very expensive. “Through BE Catalyst, the airline will be able to invest in a large refinery that produces a high volume of sustainable fuel. As the refinery starts up, the airline can start buying fuel there,” he explains in the article.
However, what benefits does the airline get? Bill Gates says that Catalyst is creating a tool that will allow everyone who invests in the organization to calculate how much they will reduce future emissions with their funds. “In summary, the tool will say: invest a dollar and this is the impact it will have in the next few years. That way, investing in clean energy projects can become a competitive advantage,” he adds.