A new way to invest in clean technology innovation.
In today’s dollars, the microwave oven cost approximately $12,000 when it first hit the market in 1955. You can now get one at Walmart for as low as $49
It is easy to see why the price dropped so drastically. Customers loved the new features of microwaves, which did some things better than electric or gas ovens. Microwaves became popular, and more companies started to invest in them. They were able to produce them more efficiently and build supply chains that helped lower their price. Microwaves became cheaper and more people bought them. This led to more innovation.
While some clean-energy products can work in the same way, others are not. For example, solar power has become significantly cheaper over the last few decades. Not yet, at least.
Many green technologies cost more than the ones they are replacing, which I call Green Premiums. They aren’t better at their job (except for contributing less to climate change), and in many cases, they do the work worse.
This is terrible news in the fight against climate change. The world must eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. So, it will be necessary to invent and deploy more clean-energy products. While it is significant that governments are investing more in green recovery programs and that people are willing to pay the Green Premium for building materials, innovation isn’t happening fast enough. The market isn’t growing as quickly as it should, and products aren’t getting better or cheaper as fast as they could.
We should not only speed up efforts to combat climate change. Research has shown that U.S. citizens understand that developing clean technologies can spark new industries and create blue-collar jobs, especially in areas like American manufacturing, which has seen a significant decline in recent decades.
We need a new way to finance, produce, and buy clean-energy technology to accelerate the innovation cycle.
Breakthrough Energy Catalyst is creating a new model. This coalition includes philanthropists and companies as well as governments. The idea is to have other green products adopt the same model of innovation, early adoption, and cost reductions as solar power and microwave ovens.
Catalyst identified four areas where this approach is appropriate. Each region has new technologies that are in the research and development phase, ready to deploy but not mature enough to attract major investors. A small amount of capital can make a huge difference.
These are the four areas:
- Storage of long-term energy would allow energy storage to last for months instead of the few days that current batteries can hold. This breakthrough would make solar and/or wind power more accessible in more areas.
- Renewable aviation feels this can power large passenger and cargo planes.
- The capture of direct air will remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. Although we won’t be capable of eliminating all carbon by this method, it will get us closer to the zero-by-2050 goal.
- It’s affordable Green hydrogen The potential of hydrogen fuels is excellent. They can provide more power than a battery and could be used to power large aircraft and other industrial processes. They are expensive when they aren’t emitted more greenhouse gases.
What will Catalyst look like in practice? Let’s suppose an airline wants to make a meaningful contribution to combating climate change. The best option for an airline is to purchase sustainable fuel. However, this fuel is very scarce and expensive.
B.E. Catalyst will allow the airline to invest in large refineries that produce a large volume of sustainable fuel. Once the refinery is up and running, the airline will be able to start purchasing energy from it. It’s even better than once. The plant’s design has been proven to work. Subsequent plants will be less expensive. The volume of fuel available will increase, and the price will drop, making it more appealing to buyers. This will attract more companies that are innovative to the market. This will create a virtuous circle.
You might be asking: What’s the point of an airline? This isn’t a vague gesture of goodwill. Catalyst is collaborating with CDP, a non-profit partner, to create a tool that allows everyone who invests in Catalyst the ability to determine how much funding will reduce future emissions. The tool will display: Invest one, and this is your impact for the next years. This is how investing in clean-energy projects can give you a competitive edge.
Aviation is only one example. Utility companies can also use catalysts for long-term storage, steel producers that require green hydrogen, and other companies that require direct air capture to meet their emissions reduction commitments.
Like any investment that increases in value over time: They’ll be able to tell potential investors, “We know how much our contribution is to the world’s zero-emission goal. This is something you’ll value.
CDP will publish a September report explaining the tool’s functionality, and we anticipate launching an interactive version at the COP26 in Glasgow.
Catalyst will finance its first projects in the next year. We’ve already announced our first major funding partnership. In partnership with the European Investment Bank, the European Commission and Catalyst will mobilize $1 billion (EUR820 million) over the next five years to fund large-scale demonstration projects in Europe in the four areas I have mentioned. We aim to lower the cost of these approaches, make them more accessible, speed up their deployment, and contribute to the E.U.’s ambitious climate goals. I expect to announce more partnerships like this later in the year.
Catalyst is exciting to me. I believe it can make clean-energy innovation more accessible and affordable for all.