Seattle Times on Bill Gates’ Clean Energy Fund Announcement

Hal Bernton at the Seattle Times offers a summary of the Bill Gates’ recent clean energy fund announcement and its impact on the local cleantech sector. From the article:

In the Monday kickoff to the historic climate conference in Paris, Bill Gates unveiled a new role as a global recruiter for billionaires willing to push clean-energy ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition lists more than two dozen members from 10 countries that span the globe from India to Africa to Saudi Arabia. In addition to Gates, they include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Alibaba Group executive chairman Jack Ma and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The coalition will partner with 20 countries that have pledged to increase their spending in clean-energy research and try to greatly speed up a global transition away from fossil fuels.

The coalition is expected to muster billions of dollars in investment, but no specific figures were announced Monday.

Here is the reaction from CleanTech Alliance member 1Energy Systems:

All of this was welcome news to Washington’s own clean-energy entrepreneurs, such as David Kaplan, a former Microsoft employee who in 2011 founded Seattle-based 1EnergySystems. It has developed software technology to help electric- power utilities smoothly integrate battery storage into their grid systems.

Kaplan thinks his company has huge long-term growth potential that might attract the interest of the Gates coalition. But his company doesn’t offer the potential for the kind of quick-turn around profits that typically bring in investors.

“We have had to grow in a rather lean and mean fashion,” Kaplan said. “And this could be a much better fit for our type of business than traditional Silicon Valley VC (venture capital) money.”

The 1Energy Systems technology is now being used by the Snohomish County Public Utility District, which, over the past year, has installed battery- storage technology able to supply 750 homes with an hour’s worth of electricity.

The PUD has decided that all new growth in power demand will be met from sources other than fossil fuels, and the battery systems are intended to help balance demand with a supply that — with increased reliance on wind and solar power — is more intermittent.

Read the full article on the Seattle Times website…