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THE BILL GATES INTERVIEW: An energy miracle is coming, and it's going to change the world

The most remarkable thing about meeting Bill Gates in person is beholding his mental map of the world — how advances in technology, the well-being of humanity, and the fate of our world are all intertwined.

Tech Insider met with Gates on Monday to talk about his 2016 annual letter, in which he discusses the balance of bringing electricity to the billion people who don't have it and finding power sources that don't kill the earth.

"Within the next 15 years — and especially if young people get involved — I expect the world will discover a clean energy breakthrough that will save our planet and power our world," Gates says in the letter.

The head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke about how to make an energy miracle happen, the stakes of climate change, and what the role of the world's billionaires is in all of this.

Drake Baer: What are the most exciting things happening right now in clean energy?

Bill Gates: A lot of it is pretty early stage. The most straightforward path would be if we could bring the cost of solar electric and wind down by another factor of say, three, and then have some miraculous storage solution, so that not only over the 24-hour day but over long periods of time where the wind doesn't blow, you have reliable energy. That's a path. But energy storage is hard. That's not a guaranteed path.

In fact, batteries haven't improved over the last 100 years as much as they would need to in order to make that happen. So I'm invested in a lot of battery companies — and there's a lot that exists I'm not in. They're all having a tough time achieving it. We need to look at less obvious paths, things like the wind in the jet stream, which is very high up. The material science of what type of kite string you would need to connect up to that. That's still at the basic research level.

That's the part where the governments have a unique role, and then when it progresses well enough, then existing companies or new startup companies should take it. In the $3 trillion a year energy market, for someone who really is cheaper, the rewards will be quite fantastic.

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