HSBC pledges $100m to Bill Gates’ clean energy innovation fund

HSBC has confirmed a $100m investment in Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, a private-public accelerator programme focused on mobilising funding for technologies that could play a key role in the energy transition.

HSBC pledges $100m to Bill Gates’ clean energy innovation fund

HSBC has committed to net-zero financed emissions by 2050

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst is part of the larger Breakthrough Energy network of initiatives, which was founded by Bill Gates in 2015. Earlier this month, Gates announced that the network has raised more than $1.5bn so far – primarily from the private sector and from philanthropists – with plans to surpass $15bn by the end of the decade.

HSBC said in a statement that its contribution will be used to finance initiatives in the fields of low-carbon hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), long-duration energy storage and direct-air capture (DAC) – technologies that suck greenhouse gases from the air. In providing the funding, it has secured representation on the initiative’s leadership council, meaning it will get a say on which projects receive backing.

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst provides funding directly to specific projects rather than companies, which HSBC is touting as one of the reasons it chose to back the initiative over other similar schemes.

“Brilliant green-tech innovations that could transform heavy carbon-emitting industries and transform the power sector already exist – they just need investment like this to become reality,” said HSBC’s group chief sustainability officer Dr Celine Herweijer.

“Our unique international footprint makes us well placed to advise on the global challenges and opportunities presented by the net-zero transition, especially in Asia and the Middle East. We look forward to making a major contribution to the net-zero journey as part of the Catalyst family.”

HSBC has notably committed to reaching net-zero financed emissions by 2050 and outlined plans to finance at least $750bn of low-carbon activities within a decade. However, ShareAction claims that in that HSBC funnelled $1.8bn into fossil fuel companies in the build-up to that announcement. The activist investor group is also currently calling on HSBC to bolster its plans for ending support for coal-fired power and thermal coal mining by 2040.

As for Breakthrough Energy, the initiative featured in edie last October, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed £200m of investment from Government coffers and a further £200m from the UK’s private sector. That announcement was made at the Global Investment Summit.

Amazon’s new accelerator

In related news, e-commerce giant Amazon has today (31 January) launched a new sustainability accelerator in partnership with cleantech innovation hub EIT Climate-KIC.

The scheme, called the Amazon Launchpad Sustainability Accelerator, will offer a 12-week programme of support to start-ups producing “physical products that make it easier for people to live more sustainably”. Start-ups will need to be either UK-based or located in mainland Europe to apply, and will need to prove that their products are sustainable in production and help users to reduce their own environmental footprint.

Successful applicants will receive a £10,000 grant, access to a 12-week programme of sustainable business workshops, access to a mentor, $25,000 of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Activate Credits and £5,000 of Amazon-sponsored advertising credits. AWS Activate Credits can be spent on technical support and guidance on business growth. Applications will be assessed by professionals at Amazon and EIT Climate-KIC.

“One of the essential ingredients for achieving the transformations we need now is to make sure that all new companies are thinking systemically and are fully sustainable and regenerative from the outset,” said EIT Climate-KIC’s chief executive Kirsten Dunlop.

“We are delighted to be collaborating on the Amazon Sustainability Launchpad Accelerator, giving start-ups that are sustainable from the very start, the support, grants and visibility they need to drive responsible consumerism.”

Back in 2020, amazon opened a virtual aisle for more sustainable products in Europe, called the ‘Climate Pledge Friendly’ aisle, in reference to its 2040 sustainability strategy.

However, it has continued to face calls – especially in the context of increased online shopping amid Covid-19 – to do more to discourage overconsumption and to reduce product waste within its own operations.

In other cleantech news this week, Walmart has signed an agreement to invest in indoor vertical farming firm Plenty and to place a Walmart representative on Plenty’s board of directors. The investment means that Walmart will begin using only Plenty-sourced leafy greens in California by the end of the year. Walmart notably announced a new vision to become a “regenerative business” at Climate Week NYC 2021.

Sarah George

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