Government Agencies and the Private Sector Join Forces to Develop Clean Energy


Janani Ravikumar
Staff Writer

An international group of investors led by Bill Gates has created a new funding initiative called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which will invest in clean-energy technologies. Working in tandem with these investors is Mission Innovation, a new government-sponsored investment to accelerate energy research and development, which was announced by U.S. President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande at the Paris climate talks.

In 2009, the stimulus package added over $8 billion in energy research and development funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, Technology Review reports. Nearly half of this funding was used for fossil fuels. However, funding has stagnated at around $5 billion per year since then. Since the world is projected to be using 50 percent more energy by mid-century than it does today, according to Bill Gates’ blog, finding more affordable and reliable sources of energy is essential.

Mission Innovation involves 20 countries committing to double their respective clean energy research and development investment over the course of five years, according to These countries span across five continents and include the top five most populous nations: China, India, the U.S., Indonesia and Brazil. Together, they represent 75 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from electricity and over 80 percent of the world’s clean energy research and development investment.

“Accelerating widespread clean energy innovation is an indispensable part of an effective, long-term global response to our shared climate challenge,” Mission Innovation’s mission statement says, according to the official site. “It is necessary to provide affordable and reliable energy for everyone, to promote economic growth and energy security. While important progress has been made in cost reduction and deployment of clean energy technologies, the pace of innovation and the scale of transformation and dissemination remains significantly short of what is needed.”

Aside from augmenting clean energy research and development, Mission Innovation seeks to encourage the private sector to do its part. Over this past summer, Vice President Joe Biden announced $4 billion in independent commitments to sustainable development by major foundations and institutional investors, to sponsor “solutions to help fight climate change.”

The Obama Administration has taken its own steps to encourage private sector investment, such as launching a new Clean Energy Investment Center at the Department of Energy to make information about energy and climate programs at government agencies more accessible and understandable to the public, as well as facilitating investments by charitable foundations.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is the private sector’s response. According to the official site, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition seeks to invest in a wide variety of sectors, which include: electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial use, agriculture and energy system efficiency.

“We are committed to doing our part and filling this capital need by coming together in a new coalition,” the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s official site says. “We will form a network of private capital committed to building a structure that will allow informed decisions to help accelerate the change to the advanced energy future our planet needs.”

While today’s renewable technologies, such as wind and solar power, have made a lot of progress, new paths need to be explored and new approaches need to be invented if this world is to have a zero-carbon energy future. Private companies will develop these energy breakthroughs, but can only do so with government funding.

“I am honored to be a part of this event,” Gates said. “It is great to see so many government leaders and investors making these commitments and showing how the public and private sectors can come together to work on big problems. I am optimistic that we can invent the tools we need to generate clean, affordable, reliable energy that will help the poorest improve their lives and also stop climate change. I hope even more governments and investors will join us.”