Cleantech: Has Solar Power Reached Its Tipping Point?

Solar PowerBill Gates Lends Support for Solar Power & Cleantech

As the world’s richest man and a generally all-around-swell-guy, everybody expects Bill Gates to do the right thing for solar power and cleantech. Little did they know he would go above and beyond by starting a clean energy fund with $1.0 billion in funding.

That’s right, $1.0 billion.

Gates rallied two dozen business magnates to build Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), an investment company dedicated to cleantech startups. There are a lot of illustrious names attached to the project, from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) CEO Jack Ma to Amazon.com, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos.

Collectively, these folks are worth about $173.0 billion. As a result, it wasn’t too hard for them to scrape together $1.0 billion for the fund, which will have the sole purpose of seeking out and investing in cleantech companies. (Source: “Bill Gates Is Heading a $1 Billion Clean Energy Venture Fund,” Fortune, December 11, 2016.)

“I am honored to work along with these investors to build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research,” said BEV chairman Bill Gates in a statement Sunday night. “Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world.”

Some analysts believe this fund could provide a nice tailwind for solar power stocks. Having the infrastructure to move money from billionaires to savvy entrepreneurs is how technology spreads. We’ve seen this trend start to develop over the last five years.

Solar power stocks began to appear on the NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchanges, bearing names like SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY), First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR), and Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:CSIQ). They have spread the gospel of cleantech far and wide and, in the process, driven down the cost of solar panels.

With the addition of star-studded cleantech funds, it is only a matter of time until the energy revolution reaches its tipping point.

Five years ago the question was: “Even if we phase out oil and gas, what can we replace it with?” Now the world’s elite business leaders are forming an answer to that question. In fact, future historians may remember Sunday as a tipping point in the evolution of cleantech.

Here’s why: Bill Gates’ privately funded venture fund was announced on the same day as Mission Innovation, a multi-billion-dollar government project with similar aims. The agreement fulfills an agreement in the Paris Climate Accords to double cleantech R&D budgets by 2020.

So both private and public investments in cleantech are ramping up. It’s clear that the smart money is flowing to cleantech, which means that a groundswell of popular support can’t be far behind. Best of all, solar power stocks are likely to absorb most of the funding.