How Amazon decides which climate tech start-ups to invest in — and what that says about its future ambitions

Amazon purchased the naming rights to rename Key Enviornment to Climate Change Enviornment.

Supply: NHL Seattle

If Amazon goes to obtain its aim of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, it is going to want to depend on new know-how. To spur the method alongside, the corporate has a $2 billion enterprise capital fund to collect and develop climate tech start-ups.

Watching the place Amazon is investing is a technique to monitor innovation in the house. It may possibly additionally give buyers a way of what elements of its personal enterprise Amazon intends to prioritize in the future.

“Quite a lot of what we invest for is three to 5 years out,” Matt Peterson, the top of The Climate Pledge Fund at Amazon, instructed CNBC. “We strive to go searching corners to see the place our wants are going to be and the place the wants of different firms are going to be. I imply, with with a 2040 time horizon, you understand, you may’t actually afford to look one or two years out, you’ve to assume long run.”

The Climate Pledge Fund, which was introduced in June 2020, is funded fully with cash from Amazon’s personal steadiness sheet. For Amazon, the precedence is extra about incubating the applied sciences it would want to meet its personal climate aims — earning profits is sweet, too.

“If occurs to be that the businesses we invest in do nicely and they develop into the subsequent Tesla or they return a a number of of our funding, then that’s nice. It reveals that it is a validation of what it’s, nevertheless it’s not the primary focus of the fund relative to the broader strategic aim,” Peterson instructed CNBC.

It is also open to investing in firms at many various phases, and has invested from seed-stage up to collection B rounds. “We will invest 1,000,000 {dollars} in the corporate or invest over $100 million in the corporate,” Peterson stated.

Amazon will not be alone in investing in climate tech. The house has seen a five-fold improve in funding {dollars} to $32.3 billion in 2021, up from $6.6 billion in 2016, in accordance to a recent report.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced new investments in Resilient Power and CMC Machinery and a second funding in Infinium. Amazon has beforehand introduced investments in CarbonCure, Pachama, Redwood Materials, Rivian, TurnTide Technologies, BETA Technologies, Ion Energy, and ZeroAvia — bringing the whole tally of climate tech start-ups Amazon has invested in to 11.

Amazon remains to be accepting applications for start-ups on the lookout for funding. The corporate plans to make investments each massive and small.

Listed below are 5 areas inside climate tech that Peterson instructed CNBC Amazon is trying to invest in and how these areas monitor with Amazon’s present or future objectives.

Meals and agriculture investments

Meals manufacturing requires a ton of land and gas, meals waste and spoilage outcome in methane emissions, and dairy and meat manufacturing releases in CO2 and methane emissions — all of which are issues for Amazon if it plans to get additional into meals manufacturing.

“Folks neglect that Amazon owns Entire Meals,” Peterson instructed CNBC. “We have now plenty of alternatives and new enterprise fashions round Amazon Recent, which is our bodily shops, in addition to our residence supply of meals.”

He added, “Should you have a look at the place we’re going in the approaching years with progress in grocery and progress in meals and meals in basic, it is one thing we wish to get forward of.”


In September 2019, Amazon introduced it was going to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian Automotive. These vans are to be deployed by 2024 and are a part of Amazon’s effort to convert its supply fleet to 100% renewable vitality by 2030.

As a part of that electrification push, Amazon invested in Resilient Power, which is creating know-how that builds electrical automobile charging infrastructure at one-tenth the dimensions and set up time of present charging know-how.

Resilient Energy charging stations.

Photograph courtesy Amazon.

“It isn’t as horny as, say, an EV producer, nevertheless it’s simply as essential in my opinion,” Peterson instructed CNBC. “The know-how that they’re actually making an attempt to replace hasn’t been modified in most likely 30 to 50 years. It is ’70s-’80s model know-how, with these massive energy stations or substations,” he stated.

For electrical energy to go from the grid to an EV charger, it has to undergo a step-down course of, and Resilient Energy makes use of semiconductors and a software program management as opposed to massive bodily, mechanical {hardware}.

“We have now a giant want for this and as we’re mapping out our personal wants for doing this, this answer is actually fascinating to us,” Peterson instructed CNBC.

Inexperienced hydrogen

Water may be break up into its chemical items, oxygen and hydrogen, with electrical present in a course of known as electrolysis. That hydrogen can then be used in numerous methods to generate carbon-free vitality.

If the vitality used to energy an electrolyzer is carbon-free, then the hydrogen created is known as “green hydrogen.” Amazon has made a number of investments in this house.

ZeroAvia is constructing airplanes that are powered by hydrogen gas cells — significantly essential, says Peterson, as aviation shall be one of many hardest industries to decarbonize.

Infinium makes electro-fuel, which would exchange diesel or kerosene in aviation gas. “The distinction is as a substitute of being extracted from the bottom and refined like fossil fuels, it is constructed from artificial parts. And the artificial parts are inexperienced hydrogen and captured carbon dioxide,” Peterson stated.

Infinium Reactors

Photograph courtesy Amazon

The gas Infinium makes is 95% carbon impartial as a result of it makes use of carbon dioxide that was captured, not extracted from the bottom. However he acknowledges it is a bridge know-how towards a longer-term aim of discovering utterly carbon-free vitality sources.

“On the finish of the day, we wish not to burn gas to start with, and launch CO2, however at the very least the CO2 that is being launched is recycled for orbit captured beforehand. So it is, it is an a internet foundation, it is, it is, it’s totally shut to zero.”

Lengthy length vitality storage

To make use of renewable vitality like wind and photo voltaic on a big scale depends upon battery know-how to retailer vitality when the wind is not blowing and the solar is not shining.

Amazon is trying into lengthy length battery know-how of varied sizes and scales. Many long-duration batteries are very massive and Peterson stated Amazon will want batteries at sizes that are “acceptable” for the various use circumstances Amazon will want.

Supplies: Discount of and reinvention of plastics

For a lot of customers, Amazon is most seen by means of the packages that are delivered to their doorstep. In mixture, these packages create a whole lot of waste.

The CMC Equipment system


CMC Equipment, one of many investments introduced Wednesday, has developed an automatic packing machine that reduces the quantity of packing containers by roughly 24%. That lets Amazon cut back the dimensions and variety of plastic air pillows that go into the packing containers, Peterson stated. Total, that may let Amazon cut back the usage of as many as 1 billion plastic pillows by the tip of 2022.

Long run, Amazon is in applied sciences that can create extra sustainable plastic options, Peterson stated.

“Are you able to create a plastic that’s not extractive? That doesn’t use fossil fuels? And in addition, are you able to create of plastic that is biodegradable and compostable at scale?”

How Amazon decides which climate tech start-ups to invest in — and what that says about its future ambitions
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