Amazon Puts $2 Billion into Fund to Transition to Zero Carbon Economy

Amazon announced The Climate Pledge Fund to support the development of sustainable technologies and services that will enable Amazon and other companies to meet The Climate Pledge—a commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040. This dedicated venture investment program—with an initial $2 billion in funding—will back visionary companies whose products and services will facilitate the transition to a zero carbon economy.

The Climate Pledge Fund will invest in companies in multiple industries, including transportation and logistics, energy generation, storage and utilization, manufacturing and materials, circular economy, and food and agriculture. Over time, Amazon will also look for opportunities to involve other Climate Pledge signatories in this venture investment program.

“Amazon has demonstrated its leadership in adopting low carbon technologies at scale,” said Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe. “Their investment in Rivian and subsequent order of 100,000 electric delivery vans will substantially shrink the carbon footprint of Amazon’s package delivery network. We’re excited about a future of decarbonized delivery services.”

24 thoughts on “Amazon Puts $2 Billion into Fund to Transition to Zero Carbon Economy”

  1. Fair enough. I’ll back off just to saying that putting the energy industry in orbit would get you 80% of the benefit for 20% of the trouble.

    Most pollution from industry is a by-product of its energy-intensiveness. There are a couple of exceptions (chemicals, paper), but the main input to almost everything is energy. So if you convert all energy consumers over to using electricity, and electricity comes from the sky, you’re pretty much done.

    As for low-capacity-factor renewables + storage vs. space solar: Storage is going to get cheaper, but it’s unclear how much cheaper it can get. I can see it getting 10x cheaper, but not 100x. It’s ultimately dependent on terrestrial resources that are difficult to extract, refine, and recycle. Beyond that, that 6 Wh per W storage-to-capacity weighting (feel free to pick your number, but I can’t see it getting below 3 no matter how clever you get), blunts the learning curve even more.

    Manufacturing solar satellite equipment and getting it from the lunar surface to GEO is mostly a question of energy and water. Silicon and metals are abundant. Energy is abundant. Water is an open question. But if the water is there, the ability to deliver power to Earth at 10x the price per kW as terrestrial solar seems… not straightforward, but doable. That’s about where it’ll beat terrestrial renewables + storage.

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  2. So the point of moving industry into orbit is that’s where it’s easier to build out solar power? Not a very convincing argument when you consider the cost, if you are making things which are to be used on Earth. If the raw materials are sourced from space, and products are destined for off-planet use anyway, then orbital industry makes 100% sense.

    Even with high-cost energy storage I suspect you will always have lower total costs keeping everything at the bottom of the gravity well. The problem to be solved is then not how to move industry and solar power into orbit, but how to make low-cost storage on Earth.

    If solar power can be put in orbit cheaply enough to provide power to the ground, then that might be a good bridge until the storage issue is solved.

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  3. Electricity and process heat are clearly the high-runners, but they’re very high-runners.

    Firm renewable capacity on Earth needs huge amounts of storage backing it, because capacity factors are unpredictable and likely never get much above 40%. In orbit, your capacity factors are well over 95% and completely predictable. So your breakeven point is where the cost of building out solar capacity in orbit is cheaper than the cost of building out renewables with backing storage on Earth.

    We’re nowhere near that point right now. We will never be near that point if the materials get launched from Earth. But I think that there’s a decent chance (not a certainty) that the costs of power and propellant will become so low that manufacturing and transport of power equipment from the Moon to GEO is substantially cheaper than the cost of storage on Earth.

    The thing is, this is one where you have to bet big pretty soon, or the entrenchment of some other technology will make it unattractive to invest. Bezos is one of the few people out there who could make that bet.

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  4. Move carbon intensive industry off Earth, why? It’s not like they will be belching CO2 into the vacuum of space…

    I think any process that can be run efficiently in orbit can be done on Earth just as well. In orbit they would surely be trapping and reusing or at least storing all emissions from any industrial process. Any power generated in orbit could be generated on Earth just as well.

    I’m all in favor of orbital industry, for building materials and machines which will be used in space, but I don’t think it can solve Earth’s carbon emissions.

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  5. If your rocket engines wind up enabling space-based solar power (which is one of those “either it doesn’t work at all or it’s the answer to everything” sort of things–high risk, high reward), then it fits quite nicely into a zero-carbon world. If they wind up moving a lot of carbon-intensive industries out of the atmosphere, that works too.

    That’s not happening anytime soon, but it’s worthwhile working toward, and it has almost no cost in terms of emissions. I’m too lazy to figure out what percentage of total emissions 100 rocket launches per year would be, but I’m pretty sure that it’s a number with at least 5 zeroes after the decimal point. Oddly, the water vapor left in the upper stratosphere and mesosphere is probably a bigger forcing than the CO2 left below it.

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  6. The *grid* is between the Moon and all the rectennae, along with redirecting from Moon to Earth and even Earth to Earth beaming. So the whole system is interconnected and can balance load over far longer distances than current Earth transmission lines are capable of, if they exist. In fact, this Earth to Earth balancing will probably start before Lunar stations are up, as it is so easy and so needed, NOW. Please consider ppg 10-13 of: http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/pdfz/documents/2009/70070criswell/ndx_criswell.pdf.html

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  7. LSP needs transmission lines too. Unless you are going to partition the world in to disconnected power grids centered around… what exactly? Do cities get solar power but not rural?

    Either way you need some degree of redundancy and that means a grid.

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  8. I doubt it. If General Fusion was looking awesome then he would set up a fund to roll out Mr. Hammer-Fusion units across the land. Just committing to built the FOAK unit would be huge.

    This just smells like General Fusion is a dud.

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  9. Last I heard they had about $100M in funding, so maybe they just don’t have anything more to spend money on at the moment.

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  10. We enter the era of companies ruling the earth, and where countries have not much to say. 
    I dont think its a lot of money for him, but rather some economics like solar powered ships are cheaper then diesel, so he will make more money. its als the amounts of money that change politics around the world. Oh well its better then putting it all in a (no need for) space race.

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  11. That’s why I brought this up.

    No doubt Blue is completely head-down on getting the BE-4 to work for Vulcan and getting HLS to the next phase right now. But they’re losing a lot of share of mind to Starship, and that actually means something for design wins later on. If they branded themselves as the lunar industrial company, some of those design wins would get retargeted, and they could easily seed new startups that were tightly integrated with Blue Moon and New Glenn.

    I doubt that very many people in the industry think that Elon’s heart is in cis-lunar. Sure, he’ll take the business, but there are a huge number of features and services that will go into a system that’s really optimized for lunar ISRU. SpaceX isn’t going to divert resources from their martian work than necessary to keep NASA happy. They’re certainly not going to cater to the customers who want all kinds of additional lunar bells and whistles to reduce their investment risk.

    If Blue doesn’t do something pretty soon, they’re going to start seeing investment flowing into payloads for expendable LSS missions, and it’ll be even tougher sledding to get very many missions for New Glenn beyond Kuiper. Bezos needs a grand gesture. This would be a great one.

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  12. Bezos already had a focus on the moon anyways (versus Musk and his Mars obsession), so going deep into moon manufacturing of SPS is probably somewhat easier to convince him.

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  13. “20-200 TWe is needed overall, hard to come up with on Earth. The
    transmission lines would alone cost more than the start up costs of LSP” Have you read Janov?

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  14. I did. Apparently you are unable to make a coherent statement or have enough English to understand what you wrote.
    “The transmission lines would alone cost more than the start up costs of LSP”
    Can I recommend a grade school English course for you?

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  15. They sort of do. Data centers are located where they can access cheap reliable power, often contracting with power companies with a lot of nuclear or hydro capacity.

    Or contracting for power from cheaper coal units and separately signing up to buy the renewable energy credits from wind and solar plants.

    They help nuclear plants stay open by raising the minimum load level in the region, reducing the number of negative electricity price hours that the nuclear plant would have to sell into at a loss.

    But, I’m with you, it would be nice to see more effort to build new nuclear plants.

    Maybe use some of that fancy AI to automatically fill out the endless piles of pointless NRC paperwork.

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  16. You are certainly correct! Bezos is a long time O’Neill guy, almost as long as me, so GEO Solar Sats as per Peter Glaser are well known to him, being THE key starting project for O’Neill. This is for cash flow, a major concern for Space projects, most of which promise none whatsoever. There is a possible exception to O’Neill’s overall rule, that we DO NOT want to be on planets, however. If you ask *the* question with more detail, it becomes “Is the surface of a planet the right place for an expanding tech civilization to do 1) mass 2) volume 3) surface intensive projects?” Clearly, mass and volume projects are best done in Space. The Earth’s atmos makes the answer No for solar on Earth, compared to Space. What about the Moon’s surface for surface stuff, like solar? Is not the Moon an existing Solar Power Sat? http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/pdfz/documents/2009/70070criswell/ndx_criswell.pdf.html

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  17. 20-200 TWe is needed overall, hard to come up with on Earth. The transmission lines would alone cost more than the start up costs of LSP. Even *a* “zero carbon nuclear plant” would have a hard time merely supplying far flung Bezos and Gates stuff without Earth to Earth power beaming, supplied as a part of LSP. (edit: Space Solar of any kind, esp using ISRU, opens Space big time, a huge advantage over nuke development for baseload, altho I like nuke rockets just fine.)

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  18. I’d like to see Jeff take a serious stab at satellite solar power. It’s flat-out stupid if you’re launching everything from Earth, but if all of your structural mass is coming off the Moon, it might turn out to be competitive.

    To do it, you’d need ISRU metallurgy, a mature mass driver technology, high-scale fabrication tech, lunar water (because stuff driven off the Moon doesn’t make its own way into GEO), and at least hundreds of megawatts if not gigawatts of power on the lunar surface. That’s way, way, way beyond what we’re going to have anytime soon unless somebody is willing to put a couple of billion dollars at risk for a decade or so.

    If Bezos is serious about Blue Origin, this all aligns quite nicely with his stated vision for the company. If you’re going to bet big on cis-lunar and orbital industrial capabilities, this would be a mighty fine way to start.

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