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We need energy miracles: Bill Gates

Oilfield Technology,

AEIC Principal and Chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates, has addressed the challenges of the global energy future with regards to its current trajectory. With global greenhouse gas emissions rising and energy demand growing worldwide, Gates has said that innovation is critical to make clean energy technology affordable enough for the whole world to use.

The US government has made contributions to the pathway of innovation, but can do more to make energy sources cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable. Gates has addressed distressing statistics in relation to both public and private investments in energy research and development. In the private sector, energy R&D makes up only a fraction of a percent of the share of sales, due to a lack of privates market valuation of the public goods that energy innovation investment provides and the long term nature of that R&D. This lag is private technology R&D highlights the need for publicly funded R&D, yet the government contributes only 2% of its spending on research and development to energy, a small percentage in comparison to both defence and health spending which make up 60% and 25% respectively.

Gates has recommended that the government promote and more sufficiently support energy research and development, particularly in basic energy science, advanced nuclear fission, renewables, efficiency, and improvements in the electricity grid. The government could do this by expanding research grants and improving regulations, and focusing on funding is a critical part of the equation aspects covered in a report by the AEIC.

We need energy miracles

Below are extracts from a post by Bill Gates, further discussing the global energy sector and what it needs.

Why are clean energy breakthroughs so important?

‘The world is going to need a lot more energy in the coming decades, an increase of 50% or more between 2010 and 2014, according to US government estimates. But today our biggest sources of energy are also big sources of carbon dioxide, which is causing climate change.’

‘We need a massive amount of innovation in research and development on clean energy: new ways to stabilise the intermittent flows from wind and solar; cheaper, more efficient solar panels; better equipment for transmitting and managing energy; next generation nuclear plants that are even safer than today’s; and more.’

Why is energy so low?

‘Because there’s a long lag time, often decades, before an investment in energy research delivers a commercial payoff. In addition, energy research results in a lot of public goods, economic competitiveness, national security, and environmental protection.

How do we rank among other countries?

‘In terms of the percentage of GDP that goes to energy research, we rank eleventh, behind China and Japan as well as Finland, Hungary and Portugal.’

Edited from various sources by Claira Lloyd

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