CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
 in the world. Subscribe today!

Clean Power bill-gates

Published on August 19th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


A Challenge To Bill Gates: Create A Clean Energy Miracle

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

August 19th, 2014 by
By Yann Bradt

bill gatesIn June, Bill Gates published an article on his site, gatesnotes, titled “We Need Energy Miracles.” Mr. Gates notes that much like breakthroughs in vaccines have helped create miracles, society needs to drastically increase the amount of spending on R&D in clean energy. Ironically, there are only a few people in the world that could actually generate a true clean energy miracle and Bill Gates is one of them.

Consider the scenario: A scientist develops a solar panel that is 50% efficient, dropping the cost per watt to under $0.30. A 60 cell module would generate close to 800 watts of power. Let’s say that the stability is there, the development and commercialization could cost billions of dollars. This research and development would be meaningless even if a blank check was offered to create such a product and build the factory.

Unlike vaccines, the R&D is not where all of the capital has to go. Energy is generated over decades whereas vaccines have a small per unit cost after R&D is completed. Energy needs long-term capital investments way beyond the upfront costs of technology developments, even if the technology innovation qualifies as a miracle. Most of all, energy requires capital stability of the manufacturer that is producing the product to support the long-term nature of the project’s energy production.

Bill Gates is already investing in the R&D miracle, and has done so on multiple occasions, mainly in energy storage including Aquion and LightSail. Both investments were later stage technology investments and neither includes energy production. Not too bad for the richest man in the world, but definitely room for improvement. As some venture capitalists have learned and discussed, there is much to invest in earlier and downstream energy innovation.

In the next era of Bill Gates’ energy investments, it should include a fund to finance new technology projects. The projects should generate a small but positive IRR so that it is not a charity but akin to government backed loans. Instead the fund should ignore technology risk. Since Mr. Gates would be the funding source or major investor in the R&D miracle, it makes all the sense in the world that his project finance fund fully trust the technology.

Making a project finance fund agnostic to technology risk sounds insane for anyone in the finance business, especially if the project returns aren’t out of this world. But for someone like Bill Gates it means an attempt at creating a clean energy miracle. Therein lies the challenge to Mr. Gates. Invest billions in R&D, but allocate billions to a technology risk agnostic project fund, the miracle clean energy really needs.

Source: SolarWakeup. Reproduced with permission.

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

Print Friendly

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: , , , ,

About the Author

is many, many people. We publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. :D

  • S0MA

    the year was 2006:

    rhetorically; why are you all dumb?

    “oooh, elon musk will do it. hes rich and smart and stuff [herpyderp]”

    wakeTF up.

    let me see. the most efficient renewable energy device in the world?

    solar-stirling dishes.

    the company that makes them? bankrupt.

    the company that DOES NOT make them, but the world seems hell-bent on assigning its worthless heroes from twitterati to ‘tackle tomorrow’s problems’…

    why do I bother.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Please don’t put yourself out to give us any more of your wisdom. We’ll be glad to stumble along in the dark without your guidance….

  • Randy Greer

    The miracle has already been developed, but it just needs Gate$ level capital to set it loose on the world……HIGHER MIXED ALCOHOLS, cleanly made from what is in the nearest trash can……..Hey, Bill, check it out at

  • jeffhre

    “brilliant management job of building Microsoft…”

    Management? Um, he was kind of like a founder and entrepreneur too.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Here’s a miracle. And it has been produced with the technology we have in hand.

    China has kept their economy growing and seems to have plateaued out on coal consumption.

    If they can hold the peak and drop coal consumption going forward we will have witnessed a great miracle. A climate-saving miracle.

  • Todd
    • Mike Shurtleff

      Good link. Best argument you’ve put forth yet for nukes.
      There is this though:
      “Bruce Power says the average cost of the power it produces is only 5.8 (Canadian) cents per kilowatt-hour.”
      Wind is cheaper. I do not think Solar PV is cheaper in Ontario, but is almost there .
      and this:
      “From essentially zero, wind and solar have risen in 10 years to account
      for 3 percent and 1 percent of Ontario’s electricity production in 2013″
      One of your earlier links argued the small percentage achieved to date for wind and solar means they cannot replace coal. That is bunk. Exponential growth defies that argument. Of course you have to be able to deal with geometrical progression growth to understand that. Most cannot. You are just one other.

      It has taken Wind 10 years to get to this 3% in Ontario? What was the cost per kWh at the beginning? Now it is quite competitive. Close to half that 5.8% cost for nuclear. With a properly interlinked and controlled grid you frequently don’t need much storage for wind, e.g. the US midwest.

      The cost of nuclear is not going down significantly. In fact, I think it’s cost is up because of the rising cost for cement, steal, etc, the rising cost to build large structures in general. The cost of Wind, Solar, and Storage continue to drop rapidly. What will that look like in the next 10 years? …in the next 20? If is not hard to follow those trends. They are going to be replacing more coal power in most areas than nuclear, because of their greater cost advantage. It’s an easy one to see.

      If Billy gets his nuclear breakthrough this could change and my hat will be off to him. Short of a breakthrough like that… …and there could be a breakthrough in Wind, Solar, and/or Storage. In fact, one might say that is more likely …maybe …who can predict such things really?

      • Todd

        For storage to overcome the capacity factor limitations of solar and wind of 25 and 35% (max.) respectively, would be an incredible accomplishment. Essentially means being able to store GW’s of electricity for several hours at a time, every day. Maybe flow batteries are the answer some time down the road, I don’t really know. Also, power density comes into play “Why Power Density Matters”

        • Bob_Wallace

          I suppose we could do what we did when nuclear penetration reached a point at which it caused grid problems.

          Build pump-up hydro storage. GW’s of electricity stored for months, if necessary.

          Power density does not come into play, except in the minds of people who push fossil fuels and nuclear. What counts is 1) the cost of electricity, 2) delivery times, and 3) external costs/dangers.

          Wind is a very non-dense power source. But the cost of electricity coming from a wind farm is 3x or more times cheaper than from a coal or nuclear plant.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          To start with it is a 2013 article using 10% efficiency for Solar PV.
          Amorphous Silicon PV companies have only be able to get to just over 10%
          and they are all going out of business. My comment on that has been:
          It’s about time. Sorry for the great people losing on aSi PV, but it
          cannot compete. The bulk of Solar PV is still multi-crystalline silicon
          PV and I think this is now easily over 15%. We will likely see even
          lower cost crystalline silicon PV take over the market at 20%+
          efficiency in next few years. Compete or die.
          This is a small simple point that goes to credibility of you reference. Suspect credibility to start.

          Jumping to the end:
          “120 million people live in these cities. Covering any of them entirely
          in 10% efficient solar panels will generate less than half of their
          energy needs.”
          OK, he’s worked the discussion down to this statement
          that in a broader context, a realistic context, is a nonsense
          statement. Why would you try to generate all the power for any city by
          cover the city with solar? You need to do what we do now with power
          plants. Build’em where you can and send the power to the cities via
          power lines. I live in Western Washington State. Most of my power
          comes from Eastern Washington hydro. That’s also where most of our wind
          is and I think we still get some nuclear power from Hanford, maybe. So
          yes, bonkers statement.
          Distributed Generation Solar PV will be
          widely used for suburban residential and rural areas, business
          warehouse, and the like, as you see being built faster and faster right
          now. They will be able to sell some of that Solar power to higher
          density customers in apartment buildings, office buildings, etc. via
          that crazy new technology this author must be unaware of, “the grid”,
          So his neat graph of how Solar PV can’t meet the needs of densely populated cities comes under the saying:
          “liars, dang liars, and statisticians” It is a not-even-clever use of numbers to make nonsense more believable. Do you buy it?

          “This extremely high population density is routinely ignored by western
          environmentalists calling for distributed energy to be the solution to
          India’s energy problems. It quite clearly is not.”
          Funny it is
          already being used to help solve energy poverty

          for people in city slums
          who have no other access

          electricity. …and then there is the rural
          poor, who are

          getting crushed economically by expensive fuel for cooking
          and fuel based lighting (eg kerosene). Solar PV is helping with the lighting already and to
          substitute for 50c/kWh diesel generated electricity in some relatively
          poor rural areas. This includes India in particular. Clearly one size
          does not fit all and Solar electricity will need grid delivery for the poor living in large apartment buildings. Just as clearly Solar PV is already helping the poor in the city slums and rurally. The poor in India’s city apartment buildings
          would still probably be very happy to use lower-cost Solar PV derived
          power during the day when it is cheap (and/or wind when available) and just settle for a few
          battery powered LED lights at night. No renewable storage required if
          it’s cheap they could adapt if it helps with the cost. …and Solar PV
          and Wind continue to drop in cost… This fellows point about hurting the poor is common nonsense from anti-solar types.

          “In this century the bulk of humanity will live in large densely populated cities.”
          he generalized a poorly based conclusion to apply to the entire
          century. He’s wrong. Solar PV continues to reach higher efficiencies
          and to drop in cost. More to the century point: As population
          continues to increase and our energy needs continue to increase, Solar
          PV is the largest source or power available to us, as shown here:
          energy. – Dec 2012
          “Solar Power” “Solar Power Abundance!”
          Note: That Solar power and Wind power available each year are being compared to the Earth’s total known Coal, Uranium, Petroleum, and NG resources …forever. The later will run out, the former will not. So, with respect to long term human use of energy, on even a 1 or 2 century scale, at current rates of growth, this fellow has it exactly backwards. Solar PV is the best choice …and it is now becoming very cost-effective to use it. We will be using a lot of Solar Power in the future.
          (…with the single possible exception of a breakthrough in fusion power, just around the corner for the last 60 years …and this would have including being low-cost.)
          There is no question Solar Power is our best available option in the very long term. This article is lame. Up your game.

          • Todd

            Fair enough, I just don’t see how solar can overcome 20% capacity factor before climate change has too big of impact. “There is no question Solar Power is our best available option”. Also, energy return on energy invested.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Perhaps you don’t understand CF?

            CF, in the case of solar, is simply an indirect measurement of how many hours the Sun shines. (Adjusted by cloudiness type stuff.)

            It’s not a matter of overcoming a 20% CF but a matter of working with it. The Sun produces about 20% of the time in good places, more in the best and less in the worst.

            When the Sun isn’t producing then you meet demand from another source such as wind, hydro, etc. or stored sunshine.

            Solar directly reduces the amount of natural gas we burn. Sun working = NG shut down.

            Solar is destroying the profitability of coal plants. Coal (and nuclear) plants typically run at little to no profit late at night, then make their profits from high peak hour prices. Solar is taking up a lot of the midday demand and wiping out peak hour profits.

            Thermal plants will fail for financial reasons because of cheap solar (and cheap wind during non-sunny hours). They will have to raise, or attempt to raise their prices, during non-sunny/windy hours which will then create an attractive market for storage and natural gas.

            Solar is going to be our major tool for fighting climate change, IMO. That is because it takes so little specialized knowledge to install a solar system and stop using fossil fuels. As I travel around undeveloped parts of the world it is very common to see shops that sell basic solar gear and show people how to set up their home/shop system.

            A large solar farm can be built by any construction company when given a set of plans. It’s prepare, pour, bolt, hook up. Simpler than building a parking garage.

            That means that solar is going to spring up in millions, hundreds of millions, billions of places very rapidly. Unlike wind, there’s no need for special technicians and large installation equipment.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            I thought you meant growth rate at first, but you’re getting into ” in particular, energy return on energy invested (EROEI), intermittency, and electricity grid control.”
            I have to give you credit. You have good references and a clear arguments. I’m enjoying this debating this with you. I don’t have time to do this justice. I’ll revisit this site next week. (In fact, I think I’ll read both those books.) I have to cut this short for now.
            To make a short response:
            EROEI – Economics are there for 30% penetration of solar and wind now. Particularly in places like Australia. Cost is still falling. Low-cost storage is now coming to the market. As low as 5c/kWh maybe, we’ll see, it will get there anyway at current trend rates. This will mean the neck of the duck curve will be dealt with in some areas (economically) and nighttime power most of the time in many sunny areas. This will still leave rainy day (week or whatever for the area) and seasonal energy storage. Pumped hydro could do that, but that is too long term, the grid will stay mixed, and I can’t say what that will look like. Solar PV penetration will be very large globally without this. Again, like cell phones, that will drive even lower prices.
            Intermittency – Kinda just hit that. Not gunna re-organize now.
            electricity grid control – Flat non-sense and paradigm thinking. Drives me nuts. Old dogs of a grid that has been the same for a century and they can’t see any a way to change. (good engineering definition of expert: ex = has-been, spurt = drip under pressure) There are already small examples on islands where 100% renewables are being used without the dead rising from their graves or anything like that. At the level of national grids there are many examples of daily power generation that has reached very high levels of renewable power, 30% 50%, 70%. I don’t remember all the specific examples and have not saved links. Notably the grids involved have not exploded, burned up, or otherwise suffered damage. Over and over more Solar PV and more Wind have meant more stable grids, not the other way around as opponents suggest. Dropouts of large thermal (coal, nuclear, etc.) plants happen and they are much harder to deal with. There are numerous solutions to smoothing the interrmittency of Solar and WInd: satellite cloud prediction, NG peak plants, pumped hydro storage for daily and seasonal, battery storage for frequency regulation and for daily storage (centrally or distributed to homes and businesses), … I’m getting into intermittency again. My point is grid stability is no more of a problem than it has ever been because of variable loads on the grid, unscheduled shutdowns of central thermal plants, and grid transmission failures (trees falling on wires, Ice and Wind storms, a dropped wrench once took out the HVDC lines from CA to WA where I live and took out a lot of the grid with it). Controls for grid stability will look different, but I do not believe this is a real technical problem. It’s a smoke screen for Utilities that do not want to see their business shrink. Sorry utilities, economics are going to drive an increase in DG Solar PV and Storage. It’s already happening.

            Too much time here already. Ciao for now…

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m not sure EROEI is meaningful when it comes to renewables.

            It makes a lot of sense if you’re talking about finite energy sources whose costs rise with consumption. For example, we want to know if we’re using more energy to get tar sands extracted and refined than we get from the product. When the EROEI turns negative then we need to see if it would make sense to use the energy inputs to replace the final product.

            But with wind and solar, while resources are finite, they are so vast that we could never make a meaningful impact on supply.

            We now have enough wind turbines and solar panels connected to the grid to supply all the energy we need to manufacture wind turbines and solar panels (from mine through installation). We can now manufacture all the turbines and panels we want without worrying about running out of energy inputs. Cost per kWh becomes the meaningful metric.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          This is not a good reference. It is nonsense, it is FUD.

          I’ve did the calculation for land required to supply ALL the power humanity uses (not just electricity) from Solar PV. I did this a few years ago. Here:

          “TheEarth receives 174 petawatts (PW) of incoming solar radiation (insolation)at the upper atmosphere.”

          About half of this is reflected or lost by the time it reaches the Earth’s surface:
          174 PetaWatts / 2 = 87 PetaWatts = 87,000 TeraWatts (TW).
          3/4 of the earth is covered by water, so only a quarter of this sunlight reaches the terrestrial (land) surface:
          1/4 x 87,000 TW = 21,750 TW
          If we assume 10% efficient conversion of sunlight to
          electricity (e.g. 10% efficient Solar PV), then only 10% can be converted to electricity: 1/10 x 21,750 TW = 2,175 TW
          The sun is only available for part of the day. Most individuals in the solar field use a “capacity factor” of 25%, i.e. the sunlight is available at full power for the equivalent of 1/4 of the day:
          1/4 x 2,175 TW = 543.75 TW
          The World currently uses Energy at the rate of 15.7 TW, so we need 15.7 TW out of the 543.75 TW available. The FRACTIONAL AMOUNT of available land would be:

          15.7 TW / 543.75 TW = 0.029
          The PERCENTAGE of available land would be:

          100 x 15.7 TW / 543.75 TW = 2.9%
          Less than 2.9% of the earth’s terrestrial surface (land)
          would be needed to supply all of the world’s power.
          This calculation is conservative when you consider
          some Silicon Solar PV efficiencies are higher than 20%, some Concentrated Solar Thermal efficiencies are close to 30%, and some Concentrated Solar PV are close to 35%.
          If you use 20% solar efficiency, only 1.4% of the earth’s terrestrial surface would be needed.
          If you use 30% solar efficiency, only 1.0% of the earth’s terrestrial surface would be needed.

          1/3 of the Earth’s terrestrial surface (land) is desert. What if we just used desert land for solar plants? We would have 1/3 the available TW available on all available land:
          1/3 x 543.75 TW = 181.25 TW
          The PERCENTAGE of available land would be: 100 x 15.7 TW / 181.25 TW = 8.7%
          Less than 9% of the earth’s desert lands land would be
          needed to supply all of the world’s power.
          This calculation is conservative when you consider some Silicon Solar PV efficiencies are higher than 20%, some Concentrated Solar Thermal efficiencies are close to 30%, and some Concentrated Solar PV are close to 35%.
          If you use 20% solar efficiency, only 4.3% of the earth’s desert lands would be needed.
          If you use 30% solar efficiency, only 2.9% of the earth’s desert lands would be needed.

          Travis Bradford claims we should need less than less than 1% of all land, 4% of desert lands, in his book
          “The Solar Revolution”, page 102. This is probably about right since solar conversion efficiency continues to improve and will probably average more than 20% before the end of this decade.

          There’s almost no way we’ll put all of our Solar in the desert.
          A huge percentage will be installed on the roofs of homes and businesses.
          End-of-grid electrical prices are much higher than source-of-grid prices because you’re also paying for maintenance of the electrical grid. Solar has a significant price advantage when installed at the point of use.

          This is just an example to show we could get all of our power from solar.
          Our electricity comes from a number of sources and this will continue to be the case.
          The real point here is solar will become one of the major sources.

          • Todd

            So is it fair to say, based on this “the sunlight is available at full power for the equival ent of 1/4 of the day” Solar would be approx. 25% max of electricity?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’s guess a bit higher.

            Demand is generally highest when the Sun is shining. We (grid people) might get ~30% of our electricity directly from solar. Perhaps a bit more.

            All the people who don’t have a places to plug in at night might be plugging in at work/school and sucking down cheap solar.

            Then we’re likely to store solar during the day to use for late afternoon, early evening demand before nighttime wind picks up.

            Then there are the hundreds of millions who currently have no electricity. I suspect most of them are going to get micro-solar before the grid will be extended to them. Give them a really good quality battery (as affordable as lead-acid with much longer cycle life) and I doubt most will ever get on the grid.

            Very much a guess, but I’d think solar is likely to be 40% or more of the global power supply.

          • Todd

            You raise good points here, Bob, thank you.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Yesterday, yes. Today, for the most part. Tomorrow, that number gets bigger because of low-cost storage coming to the market. Do some reading on Solar PV install companies like integrating storage with their PV install system offerings. I’ve been meaning to gather a list. The SolarCity/Tesla alliance is a good example.

  • Roy Wagner

    After I heard Mr Gates TED talk asking for an energy miracle innovating to zero big ideas to bring low cost energy to the worlds poorest people.

    I contacted the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation asking for assistance for the low cost wave energy system I have been developing.

    I received a polite response from them stating that this was not an area the Gates Foundation gets involved with.

    I have no idea if the request was forwarded to Mr Gates.

    In 2012 at the Wall Street Journal’s Eco:nomics conference

    Gates said that it is particularly important to make sure that the “rewards are there,” for these crazy energy entrepreneurs, and “that is very unclear right now,” for grid-related generation technologies. You have to think why don’t we have more people doing things like that — what is holding these people back? said Gates.

  • Jim Seko

    I’d like to see Bill Gates bring Edison2 back to life.

  • vensonata

    I hate to say it, but maybe renewables really just need Madison Avenue. People can be sold almost anything and frequently buy frivolous, shoddy and useless “stuff”. Electric cars are probably easy since it is possible to appeal to vanity, sex, adventure money. Pv is less glamorous, but still visible at least. Insulation upgrades…or Chanel number 5… Now that takes real persuasion. The money is out there, the technology is out there, the interested people need to be created.

    • jeffhre

      Yes, though it needs Madison Avenue (or it’s descendants and heirs) than you think. Why? I bet many more people talked passionately about Chanel # 5 today…than about solar panels!

  • globi

    This R&D talk is often used by nuclear fans (Bill Gates is advocating a new nuclear power reactor), pretending that renewable options and efficiency measures don’t exist yet.

    Let’s consider this:
    The war in Iraq cost over $2 trillion:
    If the US had decided to invest this amount in wind farms instead, it could have built approx. 1200 GW of Wind power. At a capacity factor of 40% this would produce 4200 TWh per year, which is enough to cover the entire electricity demand in the US with wind power alone.
    In addition, if the US decided to sell this electricity at only $0.05 /kWh, it would actually pay the $2 trillion off in just 10 years (while the costs of a war does not deliver a return on investment – on the contrary).

    Renewable energies, efficiency options and transmission lines are already developed and affordable. Nobody needs an energy miracle.
    If anything somebody needs to invent affordable healthcare and affordable rent.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      The cost trends of Solar PV, Wind, and Storage are very, very
      clear. Big Nuclear has been failing to go any further in replacing
      fossil fuels in the US for decades now …and it is not getting cheaper,
      but more expensive to bild those nuke plants.
      The idea of Small
      Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), that Gates has

      invested in, is they can
      compete with the factory of PV Power Plants

      advantage that Solar PV
      has. This short video clip has a nice graphic

      depiction of that
      advantage: – August 2014
      “Solar Power’s Growth: Why Renewables Are Taking Over (Video)”

      They also think SMRs will help eliminate the risk of nuclear mishap. I don’t

      agree. They have already been talking about a liquid coolant inside.
      (a) There will be many of these, sitting buried alone for decades, so they will not be well guarded. If I’m a terrorist, then I can dig down and make a dirty bomb by simply inserting an explosive.
      (b) I’m skeptical they will all be built to withstand being cracked open in an earthquake.
      In either case, if you think fracking can destroy a clean water aquifer, then you ain’t seen noth’in yet. …and the ground pollution. There is not an infinite amount of land on the earth.
      Maybe I’m wrong on those. SMRs are still in development. They are not yet available.
      …and again I’m not going to tell Bill Gates where to spend his philanthropic funds.

  • Matt

    If you watch his Energy miracle TED talk; he think the miracle is a mega Nuc plant. You fuel it and it runs non-stop for 60 years.

    • Will E

      and you as a customer pay the bill to keep it running.
      Buy your own Solar panels, make the house all electric and pay no more energy bill. with that money made, you can have a nice holiday every year.

      • Matt

        I found the idea that the fuel was in the plant and would keep generating heat if you wanted it or not more than a bit scary.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I have a problem with his TED talk. He talks about renewables needing storage (omits the fact that nuclear does as well) and then considers only the amount of batteries now being manufactured. He ignores PuHS and even manufacturing more batteries.

          Then he goes on about standing wave reactors. An idea the company he backs has now abandoned.

          Dishonest analysis and touting a flawed idea.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            I don’t see the problem with batteries. Build more. You get economies of scale. e.g. Tesla mega-factory will double World production of batteries …or is that “just” double World production of lithium batteries? Battery Technology Problem nearly solved. Still need lower cost. Scaling needed anyway, will further lower cost. Scaling now in progress… and not just by Tesla, they are just the most aggressive.

            I could just as easily say there are no low cost Gates reactors, 0%, so they are not a viable solution.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Thanks for the link.
      To add to what Bob has said…
      He puts cost as the number one problem for wind and solar, but then does not even address that in his talk. That was then. This is now. Wind and solar are winning due to lower cost in many places now. He doesn’t have a clue.
      Wind, Solar, and Storage continue to drop in cost with new innovations and economies of scale. His nuclear approach has not been proven. It may not succeed. Short of a breakthrough somewhere else, Wind, Solar, and Storage cannot be stopped.

  • JamesWimberley

    With all due respect to Bill Gates’ track record, I think he is using the wrong mental model, viz, vaccines. Polio asd smallpox pre-vaccines: millions suffer. Jenner and Salk invent vaccines. problem solved. Gates’ foundation is applying this model to malaria, which is good. But it isn’t even the only model of progresss in health. The gains in the 19th century came from clean piped water and sewerage, low technology spreading through the cities of the industrial world.

    In energy, regular readers of this blog will know that wind and solar energy and electric vehicles are capable without breakthroughs of getting us most of the way to an energy transition, and affordably so. This has been mainly achieved by subsidies to deployment moving the technologies down their learning curves, not research. Add in very conservative estimates of future no-breakthrough incremental improvements in these technologies, and the picture is even brighter.

    Breakthroughs would of course be nice, and would help overcome the scorched earth opposition by fossil vested interests to the transition by shifting the narrow economic calculation more quickly from “finely balanced” to “no brainer”. There are already plenty of places in the world, from Austin to the Atacama desert to Kenya to Indian villages with diesel irrigation pumps, where “no brainer” is already there.

    If I were in Moniz’ or Gates’ shoes, I would be putting the research money into the missing pieces of the transition puzzle: despatchable energies (EGS and advanced batteries, which Moniz is doing); aviation biofuels and electric propulsion; shipping; and cement.

    • Matt

      That or since the B&L Foundation have taken Africa under its wing. Why not install solar micro grids in every small village. Throw in a electric pump for water and Bills your uncle. Technical issues to resolve, yes
      Deployment issues, yes
      Scaling issues, yes
      But hey that is what everyday miracles are made of. Once it is up and running, spread them over the world.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Awareness does not come to all at the same instant.

        The price of solar has fallen incredibly rapidly. I suspect there are lots of people “in high places” who have yet to realize how fast and how much things have changed.

        But awareness is shifting. We’ve recently seen the World Bank announce that they will no longer finance new coal plants and seen them put their financial power behind micro-solar.

        Some large investment banks have also announced that financing coal is no longer anything they will do, that coal is a dying industry and the risk is too high. They won’t touch new nuclear reactors unless governments assume all the risk.

        These sorts of changes will work their way through large institutions and Bill will get the message before long.

        • TedKidd

          Wake up, Awareness, that would be nice.

          “Create A Clean Energy Miracle” thinking indicates he may be extremely unaware that’s already done, and in making that statement his ignorance may be creating a lot of harm through FUD reinforcement.

          The miracle is created. The true miracle to be performed now is scale.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Nicely written.

      “But it isn’t even the only model of progresss in health. The gains in
      the 19th century came from clean piped water and sewerage, low
      technology spreading through the cities of the industrial world.”

      I think the B&M Gates Foundation is already working on that stuff. (M for Melinda) A good friend is involved in malaria vaccine work. His chosen field is bio-tech startups and he has done well. I think they are going to crack that the malaria nut soon …to the benefit of millions of lives …and a lot of birds since DDT, becoming increasingly necessary again, will not be needed as much.

      “(EGS, Brayton-cycle CSP, and advanced batteries – Moniz is already ahead of me);”
      Is CSP ever going to be cost-effective compared to PV?
      “advanced batteries” -> Yes, Yes, and Yes. Gates is invested in at least two energy storage companies. This is mentioned in the article.

  • Benoit Rochegude

    make him work with elon musk and something clever might come out of it!!

Back to Top ↑