Bill Gates, Moniz hit Hill to promote clean energy fund

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Just days after the announcement of a new multibillion-dollar global fund to boost clean energy research, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz made the rounds on Capitol Hill to sell the plan.

Speaking to E&ENews PM after a private meeting that included Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and members of the Senate GOP Energy and Environment Working Group, Moniz said he and Gates made the trip “to discuss with some members what it’s about.”

The fund, announced in Paris yesterday by President Obama and spearheaded by Gates, includes a pledge by 19 nations to double clean energy research and development funding to $20 billion, with 28 major companies putting up billions of their own in aid (Greenwire, Nov. 29).

Moniz emphasized that Mission Innovation and Breakthrough Energy Coalition are unprecedented efforts in terms of size and approach.

“This is not just more venture capital,” he told reporters. “Its investors are explicitly saying that not only are they putting billions on the table, but they’re going to be looking at making much more patient high-risk investments than would be typical even of a venture capital fund.”

Under this week’s announcement, the United States agreed to double its share of clean energy research to about $10 billion by 2021.

Moniz said today’s meetings are intended to start building political support on Capitol Hill for the initiative, which he described in a Boston Globe op-edyesterday.

“We have to work with the Congress to see how we can hopefully get on the launching trajectory before the R&D doubling,” he said. “That’s the idea. The increase is more in the early stage of R&D, which is what these investors are looking for, the high-risk transformational technologies. The initiatives are very much linked and are very high-leverage because we’re talking about now 20 countries doubling R&D over five years. That’s the basis of probably another $10 billion and billions of dollars more put in this new form of investment focused on the innovation pipelines that are being expanded in these 20 countries.”

Energy research is a rare area that continues to enjoy broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, although Republicans tend to favor spending on basic research. The participation of Murkowski bodes well for the initiative, given her role as Energy chairwoman and a senior appropriator.

Gates did not exit the Capitol with Moniz, but today’s meeting marked his second trip to Capitol Hill since October, when he met with Murkowski and other Republican senators to discuss energy innovation.