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New Energy Investment Initiatives Part of Major Trend

With climate change front and center on the world stage as a result of the ongoing U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and a group of other business leaders used the opportunity to make several prominent announcements pertaining to climate change and energy technology funding. Late last week Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla Chan, and Gates announced the creation of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, an organization designed to fund the development of zero-carbon energy technology worldwide. Gates, alongside other business leaders, also joined with President Barack Obama and other heads of state to unveil a new climate initiative called Mission Innovation, which will be a joint effort by governments and private sector businesses to drive innovation in the clean tech sphere. For details about these two programs and their place amidst a major trend of funds focused on energy innovation, read on!

Breakthrough Energy Coalition and Mission Innovation are designed to work together on many levels, bringing together the best of both public and private investment. Breakthrough Energy consists of a variety of corporate luminaries from across the globe, including Gates, Zuckerberg, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma, and others. The Coalition’s goal is to shore up areas where government funding is sparse, especially when it comes to commercializing the most promising and scalable ideas to come out of public research institutions. While there is no information yet regarding the amount of the funding the Coalition will provide, it plans to take a flexible attitude toward investments, focusing especially on early-stage to Series A funding. Investment will span a diverse array of sectors, including electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial use, agriculture, and energy system efficiency.

Mission Innovation, meanwhile, is a consortium of 20 countries seeking to accelerate the development of clean energy. Participating governments, including Australia, China, France, India, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and others, commit to seeking to double its investment in clean energy research by 2020, focusing on tech that can be scalable to varying economic and energy market conditions. Private sector and business leaders – in particular those participating in the Breakthrough Energy Coalition – are tasked with driving these innovative technologies from the laboratory to the market. These private sector investments will be focused on early-stage technology, and such funding is planned to be made on an “unprecedented” level.

The two recently announced investment initiatives are not alone in their focus on energy technology and the need for innovation to combat the climate change threat. The Mintz Levin team, for example, has recently assisted three new funds focused on investing in energy innovation and is working with others that are currently in the process of seeking investors. It is evident that energy tech innovation is a high priority for investors, many of whom aren’t just seeking profit but are also looking to accelerate a global shift towards clean energy. As such, this trend of investment programs focused specifically on the energy technology industry looks set to expand well into the future.

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Sahir Surmeli

Member / Co-chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Sahir Surmeli is a Mintz business counselor who advises companies, boards, entrepreneurs, investment banks, and venture and private equity investors as they build and grow companies. He handles public offerings, 144A and private financings, acquisitions, joint ventures, and strategic partnerships.