“If we could bring the cost of solar electric and wind down by another factor of three, and then have some miraculous storage solution, so that not only over the 24-hour day but over long periods of time where the wind doesn’t blow, you have reliable energy. In the $3 trillion a year energy market, for someone who really is cheaper, the rewards will be quite fantastic.
At some point, that risk-taking private capital can take over, and have patents and trade secrets and things that let them lead the way, which happened with the steam engine and some other things, although with energy, the time of adoption is a lot longer than it is with, say, IT products or even medical advances, like drugs and vaccines.
Other paths would include making nuclear fission cheap enough and safe enough that people broadly embrace it, so that could be scaled up. Or, if you really could take the CO2, when you burn hydrocarbons — coal, for example — if you could really capture the carbon and sequester it — they call it CCS — if the extra capital cost, energy cost, and storage costs over time didn’t make it super expensive, then that’s another path that you could go down.
I could name about a dozen paths, and you’d like to have a whole bunch of research on all those paths, and then, eventually, at least four to five companies with really significant financing try and get to big scale, going down and really trying to prove it out. It’s the same way that when the car got going, people thought it would be an electric car, people thought it would be a steam car.
think most of the infectious diseases like malaria — our foundation is very involved — once we’re finishing polio eradication, then starting up this malaria eradication, and getting that done as fast as we can.
So on the demand side [for energy], there have been a variety of policies that globally have been way over $50 billion a year of tax credits, raising the price of electricity through things like renewable portfolio standards, so the total amount of money that’s gone into sending a price signal to push up demand versus what would happen without it has been gigantic. On the supply side, for innovation, you’d say, go look at those R&D [research and development] budgets, and they haven’t moved in the last 20 years.