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29 June 2015

How Tech Leaders Target “a Giant Leap for Energy”

Written by: Michael Zdanowski, Associate Director at Edelman

Corporate Reputation, Energy, Innovation

Bill Gates’ upbeat assessment of the feasibility of new forms of energy in an interview with the FT provides a fascinating insight into the thoughts of the man who co-founded Microsoft and drove the microchip revolution.

Gates told the FT that he has invested $1bn (£650m) into more than 40 energy ventures and plans to double his investment in green technologies to around £1.3bn.

Gates detailed a number of ambitious projects which if successful will revolutionise how we source energy.  Gates’ positive articulation of the opportunities in clean-tech present a positive vision of a non-too-distant future.

Projects range from “nuclear recycling”, where reactors will be powered by depleted uranium to “artificial photosynthesis” which could lead to devices that harness sunlight to split water into hydrogen fuel.

One project sure to capture the public’s imagination is high-altitude wind power that harnesses the kinetic energy of kites and flying turbines to capture previously inaccessible energy.

Another company funded by Gates is Calgary-based Carbon Engineering which is commercialising technology that removes and captures carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.  The captured CO² can be used commercially by industry and consumers.

Significantly, Gates calls for governments to invest tens of billions to prioritise zero-carbon energy sources. While the idea of investment into renewable energy on the same scale as the Manhattan Project and Apollo moon missions might sound fanciful in an age of austerity the challenge of arresting rising carbon emissions demands radical solutions.

As an experienced global business leader, Gates succeeds in talking convincingly about the feasibility of new forms of energy. When Bill Gates speaks investors listen.

It is highly instructive to see that business leaders who made their fortune in technology now see energy as the big opportunity.  In April, Elon Musk, a tech-pioneer, launched the vision of the battery powered home. Tesla’s lithium-ion storage batteries charges using electricity generated from solar power and “powers your home in the evening”. The launch generated excitement around the world to the reality of offgrid power.

By highlighting his burgeoning energy portfolio in the FT, Gates directly reaches a broad audience of global business and government audiences. His point that some energy investors will reap returns like those who invested in Microsoft, Apple or Google when they started out, is a positive one and not lost on anyone.

Microsoft is an Edelman client.

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