The company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient. It came to Mr. Gore’s firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital providers, looking for $75 million to expand its partnerships with utilities seeking to install millions of so-called smart meters in homes and businesses.
Mr. Gore and his partners decided to back the company, and in gratitude Silver Spring retained him and John Doerr, another Kleiner Perkins partner, as unpaid corporate advisers.The deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts. Kleiner Perkins and its partners, including Mr. Gore, could recoup their investment many times over in coming years.
Mr. Gore has invested a significant portion of the tens of millions of dollars he has earned since leaving government in 2001 in a broad array of environmentally friendly energy and technology business ventures, like carbon trading markets, solar cells and waterless urinals.He has also given away millions more to finance the nonprofit he founded, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and to another group, the Climate Project, which trains people to present the slide show that was the basis of his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Royalties from his new book on climate change, “Our Choice,” printed on 100 percent recycled paper, will go to the alliance, an aide said.