Scientists Start $150 Billion Program to Cut Clean-Energy Costs

(Bloomberg) — Scientists and economists including BP Plc’s
former chief executive officer, John Browne, are inviting
governments to join a $150 billion program that aims to make
clean energy cheaper than coal.

The 10-year plan, known as the Global Apollo Programme to
Combat Climate Change, will fund research into renewables, power
storage and smart-grid technologies to make them cheaper than
fossil fuels. It aims to create an international task force of
scientists, entrepreneurs and policymakers.

“There is a looming catastrophe that can be avoided,”
David King, an Apollo founder and former chief scientific
adviser to the U.K. government, said in London. “What we need
to do is create clean energy that is less costly than fossil
energy, and once we get to that point, we’re winning all
battles.”

Apollo already has attracted considerable interest from
countries including India, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the U.S.
and the United Arab Emirates, King said. The project plans to
make public its members by November, ahead of the United Nations
climate change talks in Paris the following month.

Apollo’s goal is for new-build renewables to be cheaper
than new-build coal plants in sunny countries by 2020, and
worldwide from 2025. Generating electricity from the sun
currently costs about $136 a megawatt-hour on average, compared
with about $91 for coal, according to Bloomberg estimates.

Rising Concentrations

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are
rising at about 2 to 3 parts per million annually, and for the
first time it averaged more than 400 parts per million in March,
according to U.S. government measurements. The UN has said that
greenhouse gases should peak at no more than 450 ppm this
century to maximize the chance of limiting the global
temperature rise to 2 degrees Celcius.

Climate negotiators are gathered in Bonn for 11 days of
talks to iron out their differences ahead of the Paris
conference. The goal of envoys from more than 190 nations is to
agree on a deal that for the first time would require developed
and developing countries to take action.

Participants in Apollo would be required to spend an
average of 0.02 percent of gross domestic product from 2016 to
2025, largely in their own jurisdiction, to help fund the
technology development. The program will have a Commission with
representative from each member country, and there will be a
Roadmap Committee that will produce a document of research and
development areas that need to be addressed.

‘Man on the Moon’

“This challenge is at least as big as the challenge of
putting a man on the moon,” Richard Layard, another Apollo
founder and the director of the Wellbeing Programme at the
London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance,
said. “We don’t think that this problem can ultimately be
cracked unless we reduce the cost of clean energy below that of
dirty energy.”

Other founders of the program include Gus O’Donnell, the
former U.K. cabinet secretary, Martin Rees, former president of
the U.K.’s Royal Society, Nicholas Stern, chairman of the
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the
Environment and Adair Turner, senior research fellow at the
Institute of New Economic Thinking.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Louise Downing in London at
ldowning4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at
landberg@bloomberg.net
Carlos Caminada, Tony Barrett

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