Capitol Alert

Californians to invest big in Bill Gates’ clean energy fund

Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff, seen here with his wife Lynne at the White House in 2015.
Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff, seen here with his wife Lynne at the White House in 2015. Andrew Harrer

Gov. Jerry Brown and a group of California lawmakers will not leave for Paris for international climate talks until later this week, and their role – as world leaders try to hammer out an accord – will largely consist of agitating from the sidelines.

But money from the state – in many ways a more significant contribution – is already on its way.

When Bill Gates on Monday announces the formation of a new, multibillion fund to support green energy technology, nearly a third of the members of his investment group will come from the Golden State. They include:

▪ The University of California, which previously committed to invest at least $1 billion in endowment and pension funds in climate change-related initiatives over the next five years.

▪ Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, a potential Democratic candidate for governor.

▪ Businesswoman Meg Whitman, a Republican who lost the gubernatorial race to Brown in 2010.

▪ LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

▪ Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

▪ Vinod Khosla, the venture capitalist whose efforts to keep private his stretch of shore near Half Moon Bay inspired legislation last year to restore public access.

▪ Venture capitalist John Doerr.

▪ Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff.

▪ Nat Simons, co-founder of a clean technology venture fund.

Advocates of an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions say private investment is necessary to fund technological breakthroughs that could lead to a large-scale transition away from fossil fuels. A major question around the Paris talks, however, is whether financial commitments from private investors and governments will be sufficient.

“We are facing the rising danger of climate change, and it has become clear to me that the solution will require significant innovation,” Benioff said in a prepared statement. “We don’t know what our energy mix will look like years from now, but we have to start inventing it today.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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