BEV – The Big Investor and a Really Long-Term Investment

From the biggest infrastructure ever been built by humanity, Google surfing to the enormous use of ACs or other such devices, human beings have been successful in piercing holes in the already-damaged ozone layer; while nature, in its own way, responded to us with global warming.

Of course, our vanity and ignorance pushed us to hide in luxurious apartments or bungalows and dramatically increased dependence on gadgets and electrical/technological devices. The paradox persisted and exploded.

It’s funny to find out how by depleting the quality of nature and nature itself we have produced different ways to get energy and inflicted more harm on to the environment.

BEV – The answer from an unexpected pocket

It is then interesting to see a new list of billionaires as per a report from Quartz. This list entails the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Mukesh Ambani, and Richard Branson – yes, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV). The program, reportedly, asks billionaires to invest at least $1 billion.

What a radical way to garner investment for new energy technologies to fight climate change!

Of course, there is doubt and scepticism here, as in case of any other investment. More so, as this kind of fund is ‘patient capital, which invests only in those companies which are working on technologies capable of cutting global carbon emissions by at least 500 million metric tons annually? Hence, they may not provide returns on investment for up to 20 years. Sources tell us about the first two startups that BEV will be investing in: Form Energy and Quidnet Energy, both aiming at developing new technologies to store energy, but taking completely different approaches to achieve that goal. Interesting!

Money – not in a hurry

With an ambitious goal that entails big capital and big minds, BEV holds the power to shape the future of energy innovation. This means every choice that BEV makes is likely to also shape how others think about energy innovation. It is commendable to see how these business minds took a risk with underfunded, yet extremely promising, projects for emissions reduction. Ex: grid-scale energy storage, zero-carbon liquid fuels, micro grids, low-carbon building materials, and geothermal energy.

The Devil and Angel are in details

But all these ideas have to be processed with multiple, and by enormously efficient, minds. Even after being processed, the question haunts – will these options be easily accessible to the average middle class or low class people or not?

One example – that of Quidnet’s technology of using water to store energy without the need for rivers or dams is, indeed, a case in point. Quidnet also looks forward to offer energy storage at much lower costs than pumped hydro, while avoiding the inherent disadvantages of building dams and surface reservoirs by using the $6.4 million raised through BEV.

From torches to the motors, battery has conveniently, yet cheaply, supplied energy. Cost of batteries is measured in the amount of money needed to create a battery-able to store 1kWh of energy. Surprisingly, it is even lesser than the energy consumed by an average US house in an hour. Also, the average price of a lithium-ion battery pack, i.e., $209/kilowatt-hour falls below $100/kWh by 2025 (according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF)). That is quite cheap. The solution to store energy for weeks and months then can cost less than $10/kWh. Innovators like these are also working on a new type of battery that could break the $10/kWh threshold. Having at least two types of chemistry approaches, Form Energy claims to enable the company to create cheap batteries capable of storing large amounts of energy for long duration. Working towards the aim, Form Energy has already raised $11 million, $2 million from MIT’s Engine Fund and $9 million from BEV, Prelude Ventures and other small investors.

Looks like the investors and founders of BEV are up to something new as well as compelling. It will surely take up a large sum of money but if they succeed, BEV’s investments could help the world take a new turn in our efforts to beat climate change.

By Hridaya Khatri


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