For advancements in AI to be realised, breakthroughs in energy production will be necessary, according to Ann Mettler, vice-president for Europe at Breakthrough Energy.

Speaking at the World Energy Congress in Rotterdam on Monday, Mettler said: “I am very supportive of existing renewables. I have done a lot of work on wind myself. However, there are entire sectors that cannot be decarbonised with just existing technologies. In view of AI, existing technologies are not sufficient if you consider the enormous energy needs that are generated by AI and future iterations of artificial intelligence.”

Mettler emphasised that she had met with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman twice and that instead of talking to her about AI, he emphasied “the need for breakthroughs in energy”.

Breakthrough Energy was founded by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates in 2015, with the aim of investing in energy start-ups with nascent technologies that need funds to develop to scale. To be considered, a start-up has to prove it can reduce emissions by at least 500 million tonnes, in a world where almost 37 billion tonnes of energy related emissions were generated in 2022.

In October last year, Breakthrough set a $1bn funding target. Speaking to the Financial Times (FT), Gates said that through this goal, the number of companies Breakthrough invests in would increase by around 40% to 140 holdings across sectors ranging from energy to agriculture.

Mettler noted that Breakthrough stresses the importance of “patient and risk tolerant” capital for the funding of new technologies such as nuclear fusion.

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“Philanthropic capital has a role to play as well, in de-risking these emerging key technologies, because investment needs are huge. Capital is scarce, so it is important that as we are trying to build up these new technologies, that we essentially work on making the business case for them,” she said.

However, in her view, Europe still lags behind the US when it comes to promoting the business case for advanced energy.

“Looking at Europe, I would argue that much of what has gotten under way has actually increased the cost of the energy transition. It is very urgent, from a public policy perspective, to now also look measures that can lower the cost of the energy transition, such as greater standardisation and integration of markets across Europe,” she added.

Power Technology is in attendance at the 26th World Energy Congress, with reporter Alfie Shaw available for interviews on the ground. Contact him at to arrange timings and discuss topics.