Bill Gates’s Clean-Energy Moon Shot
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
It’s hard to think of a tougher challenge than accelerating humanity’s transition to nonpolluting energy sources and limiting global warming, especially in a world with abundant fossil fuels and fast-growing energy needs.
But that’s the assignment that Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and world’s richest person, has set out to tackle with a new multibillion-dollar fund that will invest in research on potentially breakthrough clean-energy technologies. He expects to double his clean-energy investments to $2 billion over the next five years.
Mr. Gates sat down recently with me to discuss the undertaking in his first extended interview since he announced the effort in December at the Paris climate conference. He called himself an “impatient optimist” but acknowledged that transitions in the field of energy were implicitly harder and slower than in sectors like information technology and medicine, where he has experience.
At the same time, he pushed back against critics who worry that his focus on what he calls “energy miracles” could undermine efforts to deploy today’s rapidly improving solar and wind technologies more swiftly. He said those efforts alone wouldn’t meet the world’s energy needs and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent that is necessary.