Bill Gates has the data for connection between energy and climate, sees opportunities for Gates Foundation and his own money - Terrapower

Bill Gates recently presented at the TED conference.


His video is below and it is 30 minutes long so I know most of you will not watch the whole thing.

There are a few things I learned from his talk that most will miss.  I've been in a variety of BillG meetings while at Microsoft and have watched from the inside and outside how Bill operates.

One funny story I used to tell ( the story is over 10 years old) is a BillG keynote at Seybold Seminars.  This was back in late 1996-1998 when Bill wanted Windows to win the battle for desktop publishing.  He wanted the data on what Microsoft needed to do to win vs Apple.  Seybold Seminars no longer exist, but here is bit of background.

Jonathan Seybold sold the company, and various successors ran the conference into the ditch, with the seminar, once the biannual gathering of the print tribes, disappeared a year ago. Jonathan was the oracle of desktop publishing, whose late-80s mantra ("standard platforms, shrink-wrapped software") set the direction for desktop publishing, and, later, the open source movement for all content production.

I had researched the topic before the event and collected detailed notes on Apple and Adobe's presentations to prepare Bill for his keynote.  I also prepared discussion material for Jonathan Seybold visited Microsoft for a Bill Gates meeting and sat in the meeting.  Bill is a data driven guy and the night before his keynote the rehearsals was a data driven discussion on what to discuss.  There were at least eight Microsoft guys surrounding Bill as he practiced his presentation and asked for clarification or more data.

Where was I?  200 ft away in the audience sitting with the Seybold Seminar event staff, five women I was joking with watching the Microsoft guys jockey to get a word in.  I figured out a long time ago, there was not a huge upside to getting in front of Bill.  It's not like he says "great job Dave, here are more options."  But, he can say "that's f*** stupid." and you now need to fight your point to prove Bill is wrong or admit Bill was right and I am stupid.  How much fun is that? Vs. sitting with five women for 1 1/2 hrs having pleasant conversations.  Also, one of the five is now my wife.

I tell this story, because I look at Bill's speech from a different view.  So, back to what I saw in Bill's speech. 

  1. Bill has the data that shows the same people he is trying to help with health initiatives at the Gates Foundation are impacted to a greater degree by climate change and availability of energy. (seemed kind of obvious to me)  If there is a drought caused by global warming, then crops and water supplies are effected for the population.  This is explained in the first minute above video.
  2. The cost of energy has the most impact on the poor.  Here is a graph of the price of energy.image
  3. He has a simple formula. The sum of CO2 increases temperature has a negative effectimage
  4. Bill asks his scientist.  Can't we just reduce carbon to solve the problem.  His scientist say until CO2 from energy generation hits zero the temperature will continue to rise. image
  5. Bill next goes into what can be done to get to zero.  Asking the question can any of these go to zero.  Walks through each the conclusion is C02 per unit energyimage
  6. What Bill says is we need Energy Miracles that are cheap and no CO2.image
  7. Bill identifies the areas he think miracles can be done. image
  8. Bill makes this excellent point on energy storage.  All the batteries on the earth only store 10 minutes of energy.image 
  9. Then he gets to his answer for a miracle. Terrapower a travelling wave nuclear reactor.image
  10. And last, Bill appeals that there are many things that need to be done to reach the goal of 1/2 cost power with no carbon.image

One other big point that was made after Bill was presenting when discussing Terrapower.

Intellectual Ventures® investments in energy inventions have evolved to become TerraPower, an expert team that is investigating innovative ways to address energy needs. TerraPower’s most advanced work centers on radically improving ways to make electricity using nuclear reactors.

At minute 21:10 in the video, the question is asked where Terrapower and Bill's team is discussing who to work with.  The answer is China, Russia, and India.  Conversations with US Secretary of Energy are mentioned as well, but I can imagine the regulatory and political activists issues in the US have Terrapower seriously looking at countries outside the US to develop the technology.

On my next trip to Missouri I hope to get a tour of their nuclear reactor, and maybe I can ask them if they have had any discussions with Terrapower.

Here is a presentation by Terrapower's John Gilleland.

“The TerraPower Initiative”


John Gilleland


TerraPower LLC



Click here to watch a recording of the talk

TerraPower, LLC is a privately funded initiative focused on the development of a new reactor and simplified nuclear infrastructure. Objectives include (1) reduction, and eventual elimination, of the need for enrichment facilities; (2) elimination of any future need for chemical separations-based reprocessing facilities; (3) utilization of natural or depleted uranium as fuel; and (4) achievement of a COE competitive with clean coal plants. Participants include 65 individuals from UC Berkeley, MIT, UNLV, ANL, Burns & Row, CBCG, and Intellectual Ventures.
The reactor is based on the travelling wave concept. The speaker will review the concept and discuss the development challenges.

Thanks to some friends at Intellectual Ventures, I have contacts at Terrapower, but Terrapower Nuclear power generation is decades off, and I can take my time until I have more data.  :-)