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Bill Gates unveils Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, climate financing program

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Microsoft Corporation co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates have partnered with a group of philanthropists, companies, and governments to launch a new climate financing program – Breakthrough Energy Catalyst. The program intends to enhance investments in clean technologies that are critical for the energy transition to eradicate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The program also concentrates on fast-tracking innovation in clean energy projects to guarantee the costs decline.

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst has recognized four key areas for investments – long-duration energy storage, sustainable aviation fuels, direct air capture of carbon dioxide, and green hydrogen.

According to the Catalyst group, these new technologies are ready to be implemented but are unable to draw investors. The group feels that a comparatively moderate inflow of funds in these new technologies could get things rolling for the sectors.

The group recommends that, primarily, long-duration energy storage has the potential solution to intermittency in renewable energy generation, turning renewables into round-the-clock resources. Solving the issue of intermittency of wind and solar can maximize the utilization of renewable energy sources and increase the penetration of these technologies within energy infrastructures.

Aviation is recognized as a sector where emissions are hard to abate. This could change with the wider adoption of sustainable aviation fuel, which could power cargo planes and large passenger jets. These are otherwise too heavy to be powered by batteries.

Direct air capture is a key carbon removal option to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. A cheaper way of doing so could realize the zero-by-2050 goal faster.

Lastly, the group points at green hydrogen as a critical contributor in decarbonizing strategies, as it is more powerful than batteries. However, when made following protocols to curb greenhouse gases, they turn out to be expensive.

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst intends to demonstrate how global decision-makers can finance, produce, and buy the new solutions that will strengthen a low-carbon economy. Its end goal is to make green products follow the same cycle of early adoption, innovation, and cost reductions that made solar power affordable and accessible.

Through Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, energy-intensive sectors will be able to capitalize in a large refinery that produces a high volume of sustainable fuel and buy fuel there. The group suggests that as the plant meets its goal, the cost of building subsequent plants will drop. With more refineries coming up, the volume of available fuel will go up and the price will come down. This will make it more attractive to buyers and bring in more innovative companies into the market. The model is thus expected to scale up, feels the group.

Towards this end, Breakthrough Energy Catalyst and its non-profit partner CDP are establishing a tool to allow those investing in Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to calculate how much their funding will cut more emissions. This mechanism could lead to investing in clean-energy projects becoming a competitive advantage.

An interactive version of the tool is anticipated to be launched at the COP26 in Glasgow. CDP is scheduled to publish a report in September, explaining how the tool will work.

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst will apparently fund its first projects next year, and its first major funding partnership has already been announced by the propagators. Over the next five years, the European Commission and Breakthrough Energy Catalyst will bring in a total of $1 billion to build large-scale, commercial demonstration projects in Europe in partnership with the European Investment Bank.

The investments would address the four areas of potential growth discussed earlier. The group aims to cut the costs of these approaches, get them deployed faster, and help deliver on the European Union's ambitious climate goals. The group is expected to announce more such partnerships towards the end of the year. 

Author : Debi Dash
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