March 14, 2016
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and still world’s richest person, has forecast the discovery of a clean energy breakthrough within the next 15 years.
In an annual public letter from the Gates Foundation, he noted that with 2015 greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, a major transformation is needed in energy production and use to avert catastrophic climate change.
With growth in both global population and energy using services forecast, Gates emphasised the need for more powerful, more economical solutions to energy production. “Most scientists agree that by 2050 we’ll be using 50% more energy than we do today,” he said.
“New green technologies are allowing the world to produce more carbon-free energy from solar and wind power. But to stop climate change and make energy affordable for everyone, we’re also going to need some new inventions. In short, we need an energy miracle.”
Gates argued the case for a “massive amount of research into thousands of new ideas – even ones that might sound a little crazy”. He continued: “Many of these ideas won’t work, but that’s okay.”
He also picked up on a number of potential breakthrough areas, such as “new ways to make solar and wind power available to everyone around the clock” and “a possible way to use solar energy to produce fuel, much like plants use sunlight to make food for themselves”, as well as “batteries the size of swimming pools with huge storage capacity.”
He concluded: “The challenge we face is big, perhaps bigger than many people imagine. But so is the opportunity. If the world can find a source of cheap, clean energy, it will do more than halt climate change. It will transform the lives of millions of the poorest families. A cheap, clean source of energy would change everything.”
“I’m so optimistic about the world’s ability to make a miracle happen that I’m willing to make a prediction. Within the next 15 years – and especially if young people get involved – I expect the world will discover a clean energy breakthrough that will save our planet and power our world.”
Editor’s comment: Gates’ ambitious forecast for a game-changing energy technology to emerge by 2030 is supported by his own cash investments in a broad range of technologies. Such a development would undoubtedly change lives, but could also yield massive commercial advantages.