1 December 2015

Gates, Branson, Zuckerberg launch global energy project at COP21

Business leaders including Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg launched a new global clean energy research project on Monday at the UN climate summit in Paris.

The founders of Microsoft, The Virgin Group and Facebook announced the Breakthrough Energy Coalition at COP21 in the French capital and the initiative includes 28 investors from more than 10 countries.

Branson said: “We must produce an abundance of clean, renewable energy and drive further innovation to make the next generation of energy more efficient. It will benefit the environment, our society and the economy.”

The new initiative will research and develop artificial photosythenthesis, using sunlight to produce liquid hydrocarbons that could replace fossil fuels, according to Gates.

Mr Gates, the world's richest man, said "If it works it would be magical… Because with liquids you don't have the intermittency problem of batteries. You can put the liquid into a big tank and burn it whenever you want… There are dozens of things like that that are high risk but huge impact if they are successful."

The project will direct seed financing into innovative ideas that have been rejected by the energy sector.

Gates has doubled his portfolio of energy investments to $2 billion and has helped to persuade 20 governments to commit to doubling their own research and development investments by 2020.

Gates said it would take a decade to develop up to three breakthrough technologies, and a further 20 years before the technologies become commercialised and produced for the energy market.

Speaking to reporters, gates said: "If we are to avoid the levels of warming that are dangerous we need to move at full speed."

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