In The Future of Clean Energy, I invoked Bill Gates as a man to watch if you want to know what the smart guys are doing. Specifically, I suggested that the fact that Gates is in favor of nuclear power and has significantly invested in it should be a word to the wise. Last month, Gates founded the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a large, multinational group of venture capitalists committed to investment in research into innovative energy technologies.
Since the group’s focus of investment is research, with a goal of coming up with clean-energy solutions that are also cheaper than the “dirty” alternatives (a goal thoroughly and presciently endorsed in my book), it’s not surprising that they are looking at multiple possible clean-energy sources, each with several companies working on them, and that they are allowing for lengthy time frames of up to a couple of decades to get everything figured out.
Long time frames and a diversified organizational structure are products of Bill Gates’s extensive experience with research and development. In an interview with CNBC, Gates explains his long-term findings and repeatedly emphasizes innovation.
Innovation also applies to nuclear fission and fusion, and how to make them cheaper and safer. Nuclear is definitively included among the targets of investment by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. And innovation in the nuclear arena turns out to be a context in which Gates had suggestions for Donald Trump’s policy regarding China. Gates’s own nuclear design company, TerraPower, has a deal to build a nuclear plant in China. Gates suggests maintaining trade relations with China would be intelligent behavior. In the sphere of nuclear innovations, he points out that gas and oil are so much more expensive in China that there is more incentive to invest in nuclear technologies, and that they are able to build reactors in three years there—far more quickly than over here. TerraPower’s project would thus be good for the US-China relationship and it would also provide us with the opportunity to innovate nuclear technology more rapidly.
Check out my book for more on why nuclear energy is the clean energy of the future and could contribute to constructive collaboration between different nations of the world.