According to TerraPower Chairman, Bill Gates, the funding of energy innovation, research and development is the key to the future of humanity. In a speech delivered on Nov. 12 to the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Gates spoke about need for governments and private companies alike to significantly increase their investments in carbon-free energy technologies and solutions. The talk was Gates’s first stop in a series of meetings with government and business leaders in China.
“Climate change and pollution are the byproducts of our incredible progress to date and force us to pursue an energy future that continues to provide more access to the lifesaving and economy building power of energy while ending the emission of carbon,” he said. “This is a hard task, perhaps one of history’s hardest, but I am very optimistic we can rise to the challenge. I believe that the problems of affordable access to energy and climate change can be solved because I believe that we have the intelligence and the commitment to do it.”
Gates praised the joint efforts of the United States and China to lead the world in combating global climate change, citing the three bilateral agreements completed over the past year in support of clean energy R&D. However, even as he highlighted these important efforts, Gates noted that it is not enough. He said the R&D budgets of the two world leaders, with the United States at $6 billion and China at $2 billion, remain small in relation to the size of each government’s total budget.
“Governments worldwide can stimulate new ideas to combat climate change by dramatically increasing spending on research and development, accelerating new forms of energy,” he said.
According to Gates, both government-supported research and privately funded innovation play a crucial role in the development of new technologies. Government R&D can explore ideas considered to be too great a risk for private business alone. Conversely, private funding enables entrepreneurs to select the most viable and market-ready technologies for commercial development. As Gates stated, developing and deploying better energy technologies quickly and safely will take a global, interconnected effort, one that unites both the public and private sectors.
As an example of this type of joint effort, Gates cited his personal investment in TerraPower’s traveling wave reactor technology. He noted that TerraPower’s work with its Chinese counterparts, just announced in September, combines talent and experience with a shared purpose: to bring nuclear energy to its full potential while representing the kind of joint cooperation in innovation necessary to bring electricity to communities across the planet.
“Innovation in nuclear will play an essential role in solving these issues and can help to achieve a double bottom line return,” he said. “I founded TerraPower because I believe nuclear power holds tremendous promise to be a clean energy solution that can meet rapidly increasing global energy demands. Through partnerships such as this, we can accelerate the positive change we need to see in the energy sector, develop new expertise, and provide new jobs and products.”
Gates concluded his remarks with a look forward to continued global cooperation on climate change. He noted the upcoming United Nations conference, COP21, which will be held in Paris in December. He encouraged the world leaders who will be deliberating there to forge new relationships to facilitate innovation, increase their research budgets, and create conditions within their respective nations favorable to businesses working in this important area.
“If we all contribute in this way,” he said, “we will achieve the breakthrough solutions that will stimulate economic growth, create jobs, improve the environment, drive down costs and reduce global poverty.”