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"Gates, Bezos, Wozniak: Big tech founders are driving clean energy through the roof"

By Ignite Investments Partner, Yariv Cohen; Published on Thew New Times

Next week, on December 21, Tesla will be joining the S&P 500, debuting as one of the 5 largest components in the index with a market value of over $570 billion (!). Elon Musk’s cleantech giant is best known for its electric car, but is actually a global renewable energy leader, manufacturing energy-saving batteries, and fully integrated home solar systems. Joining the S&P 500 encompasses vast significance for much beyond the company and its founders - to the entire renewable energy sector, as it marks another step forward in establishing the sector’s profitability, acceptance, and importance, as part of the global shift towards sustainability.

In recent years, the escalating climate crisis is leaving no room for doubt. Leading entrepreneurs and investors are realising they must enter the field and insert some much-needed innovation, both from an ecological perspective and an economical one. Musk was a pioneer in Tesla, and other giants are following in his footsteps, shifting attention to the sector and establishing its status in the global investment and innovation sphere.

A clean, green investment machine

It seems as if global circumstances are paving the way for clean energy and cleantech to become the hottest, most promising investment of 2021. The oil sector, a pre-pandemic giant, went into full crisis mode, influenced by oversupply and COVID, reaching actual negative prices per barrel. The US presidential election results put sustainability and clean energy on the global discussion table, as Joe Biden declared an all-out war on climate change, reversing Trump’s America-First policies. China, the world’s biggest source of carbon dioxide (responsible for~ 28% of global emissions) announced a goal of carbon neutrality by 2060, joining the EU that aims to be climate-neutral by 2050.

Alongside oil and recognition from global leaders, The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2020 Outlook points out the highest-ever share of newly built generation capacity for renewables. As oil, gas and coal decline, 200 gigawatts of renewable power have been added throughout the year. The agency projects that renewables will represent 95% of the net increase in global power capacity through 2025, and the total installed wind and solar capacity surpass natural gas in 2023 and coal in 2024.

All these and more established renewables as a long-term worthwhile investment, and tech captains are taking the lead. Many refer to the current state of the planet as an outright emergency, and combined with the massive investment potential, the most experienced tech figures in the world are pouring in to cleantech, with massive investments and exciting new ventures.

Global innovators are jumping onboard

In early November, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos announced the first 16 recipients of his Earth Fund, a $10 billion fund designed to invest in scientists, activists and organizations combating the effects of climate change. “Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

Amazon, known as a vast contributor to global pollution, is also moving in a greener path, pledging to buy a fleet of electric vans to start delivering packages to customers in 2021, with 100,000 operating by 2030. The company expects 80% of its energy use to come from renewable sources by 2024.

Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates is a long-time supporter of sustainability and climate action, naming technology as the most influential possibility for impact. “I think dozens and dozens of approaches should be funded at the R&D level,” he told The Atlantic in 2015. “and then people like myself.. should be willing to put some number of billions into the spin-offs”.

Known to put his money where his mouth is, Gates has been investing in clean energy for years, with Heliogen, a solar-energy company, being one of his latest investments. The company’s solar process includes an array of mirrors and a heat engine, reaching 1000 degrees celsius, double what other solar suppliers have ever reached. The company aims to provide manufacturing plants that produce cement, steel, or petrochemicals with solar-based power. Gates called the company “a promising development in the quest to one day replace fossil fuel.”

The latest addition (and a very exciting one) to the list is Apple’s co-founder, and one of the most prominent pioneers of technology in the world, Steve Wozniak, who has launched Efforce, his first venture since launching Apple over 4 decades ago, aiming to use blockchain to make it easier and cheaper for companies to fund environmentally friendly projects. The company aims at small businesses that can’t afford to switch to LED lighting, streamline production processes, or insulate to conserve heat, allowing them to safely register their energy-upgrade project and secure funding from global investors.

According to a recent report by PWC, climate investments have become a global phenomenon. In 2019 total venture funding of climate tech increased to $16.1 billion, more than 3,750% increase from 2013.

These changes, trends and global attention show promising potential, one where technology leads the way to a more balanced existence. Africa is in a key position to enjoy these advancements, and encourage entrepreneurs and investors to incorporate their inventions across the continent, where energy solutions are sorely needed, and not only “nice to have”.

Clean energy has been on the headlines for years and is currently at its highest point, with high-profile figures taking the lead, investing time and money in establishing disrupting innovation. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to create prime conditions for success, and help lead humanity to a greener tomorrow.

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