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EC, Breakthrough Energy to invest $1 billion in cleantech

02 June 2021 IHS Markit Energy Expert

The European Commission (EC) announced a partnership with Breakthrough Energy to invest up to $1 billion (€820 million) between 2022 and 2026 to build large-scale cleantech demonstration projects. Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is the founder of Breakthrough Energy.

The EC, the executive branch of the EU, said 2 June the partnership will initially invest in green hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuels, direct air capture, and long-duration energy storage. The EC's announcement said the sectors have a high potential to help deliver on the economic and climate ambitions of the European Green Deal, a set of policy initiatives adopted in 2019 with the aim of making the bloc carbon-neutral by 2050.

All projects will be based in Europe.

"The European Commission will mobilize massive investments in new and transforming industries over the next decade," said EC President Ursula von der Leyen in a video. "Our partnership will support EU businesses and innovators to reap the benefits of emission-reducing technologies and create the jobs of tomorrow."

The partnership will target technologies with recognized potential to reduce GHG emissions, but which are currently too expensive to achieve commercial scale.

In a prepared statement, Gates said decarbonizing the global economy is the greatest opportunity for innovation the world has ever seen, and he praised the EU's leadership in science, engineering, and technology. "Through this partnership, Europe will lay solid ground for a net-zero future in which clean technologies are reliable, available, and affordable for all," Gates added.

Breakthrough Energy and the EC have set a goal of having the program operating by the time of the UN Climate Summit, or COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland in November.

The new investment program reinforces the mission of Breakthrough Energy to "support cutting-edge research and development, invest in companies that turn green ideas into clean products and tools, and advocate for policies that speed innovation from lab to market."

Speaking 20 May during the Columbia Global Energy Summit, Carmichael Roberts, investment co-leader at Breakthrough Energy, described the need and opportunity for public and private finance to work together to speed up the application of solutions. "Financing [presents] a phenomenal opportunity to aggregate the resources you need for breakthrough energy," he said. "Public and private investment are both critical; they need to work synergistically."

Speaking at in a webinar organized by OurEnergyPolicy on 2 June, Matt Eggers of Breakthrough Energy Ventures spoke about the organization's big ambitions. "In my view, we need companies to focus on hard problems. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, in particular, tries to look at really big problems, where solutions could yield a half a gigaton of annual emissions reductions," he said.

Eggers added that he sees in the US that entrepeneurs and investors are becoming more attracted to climate-tech businesses because they see the support from the government and early-stage investors such as Breakthrough. Also, Eggers argued that, unlike tech enterpreneurs who can write software in small groups, climate-tech innovation requires broad collaboration from inventors, academia, government, investors, and the manufacturers who bring ideas to commercial use.

In addition to Gates, Breakthrough Energy investors include Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Jack Ma, Mark Zuckerberg, and Mukesh Ambani. According to the organization's website, it has raised more than $2 billion in committed capital to support innovative energy and to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture, buildings, power generation, manufacturing, and transportation.

Reporting by Abdul Latheef, OPIS, and Kevin Adler, Climate & Sustainability News

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