Bill Gates is best known as one of the founders of Microsoft, but since stepping away from the company, he’s been using his fame and fortune to fight issues like pandemics and climate change. The Catalyst program, from its Breakthrough Energy fund, addresses this second theme. He is looking for projects in Europe and aims to raise up to $3 billion by mid-2023.
The “request for proposals” seeks projects for four types of technology: clean hydrogen fuels, sustainable aviation fuels, energy storage and technology that captures carbon dioxide from the air.
The Catalyst program, launched in June 2021, says it has raised $1.5 billion in the first six months and expects to reach $3 billion by the middle of next year. In the US, the idea is to put $1.5 billion into projects with the Department of Energy over the next three years. The public-private partnership could reach US$ 15 billion in investments.
The amount to be disbursed, however, depends on how promising the projects are. “We’re not just going to give $1.5 billion — there are serious, rigorous project appraisal processes, and we have to go through them,” Jonah Goldman, director of Breakthrough Energy, tells The Verge.
In Europe, funding can also come from the European Investment Bank and the European Commission. Breakthrough Energy expects the partnership to raise $1 billion between 2022 and 2027. There are still plans for similar demand in the UK later this year and in more parts of the world after that.
Bet on carbon dioxide capture
How to avoid climate change without harming economic activities and putting a brake on development? Gates and others are betting on technologies to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — a major contributor to global warming.
So, for companies, the point is no longer to make emissions neutral. You have to have negative emissions —that is, remove more carbon than you release.
For now, the technology is still expensive and complex. The largest industrial plant capturing gas from the atmosphere is Orca, which is in Iceland. It uses 27 tons of water for every ton of carbon dioxide. The mixture is injected underground, where it reacts with basaltic rocks to form carbonate minerals.
It sounds interesting, but it is still quite limited: the current capacity is 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. This equates to just 790 passenger cars. Is very little.
Hence the interest of several companies and billionaires in improving technology as quickly as possible. In addition to Gates, Microsoft launched a $1 billion fund to make the process cheaper. Elon Musk has promised to award $100 million to the best idea to remove the gas from the atmosphere.
Source: The Verge.