Google's Green Agenda

Posted by: Rob Hof on October 2, 2008

A few hours after Google issued a clean energy manifesto, CEO Eric Schmidt on Wednesday night held forth on the search giant’s plans and hopes for setting an entirely new agenda for energy in the U.S. This morning, Jeffery Greenblatt, Google’s Climate and Energy Technology Manager in the San Francisco Bay Area, issued Clean Energy 2030, a proposal to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. The plan calls for greatly expanded use of wind, geothermal, and solar energy.

Schmidt commissioned the $4 trillion proposal, which is intended to complement other alt-energy proposals from former Vice-President Al Gore and onetime oilman T. Boone Pickens, as a way to influence whatever new administration is elected. Speaking to an audience of several hundred people in San Francisco, he said moving to alternative energies will more than pay for itself eventually in savings of various kinds, and blamed “a total and complete failure of leadership” in the government for an inability to set the country on the road to energy independence. “It’s cheaper to fix global warming than to ignore it,” he said. “The payback on energy efficiency is enormous.”

Google’s not spending much in absolute terms on its investments in alternative energy companies—about $45 million through its Google.org philanthropic arm. But its executives have been spending a lot of time lately pushing green energy. Why?

One reason, of course, is that the company is a huge user of electricity for its data centers—though it blogged today that its data centers use only 20% of the electricity of the average one. So any reduction saves Google a lot of money. Another reason, Schmidt frankly admitted to reporters after his talk, is that it’s positive branding for Google.

Yet another, very Googley reason, is that fixing the energy grid, the system by which energy gets delivered from where it’s produced to where it’s needed, is one of the most fascinating systems design problems around. Indeed, he says Google’s systems and network design expertise could contribute to development of the “smart grid”, a proposed new electrical infrastructure that can run much more efficiently and reliably. It includes such notions as allowing electricity to flow back and forth between power sources ranging from solar and wind farms to plug-in car batteries around the country. “If you do this right, it sure sounds like the Internet,” he said.

Still, he says there’s a less practical reason that comes straight from Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page: Hokey as it may sound, they see greater use of alternative energies as a way to make the world better. So does Schmidt, who added, “To me, it’s a moral issue. We should demand that people realize the implications of short-term thinking.”

Some Wall Street analysts have raised eyebrows at Google’s attention to energy issues, but Schmidt waved off those concerns. “Our shareholders are used to this sort of stuff from Google,” he smiled.

Reader Comments

Rich

October 2, 2008 12:56 PM

Greater use of alternative energies is definitely a way to make the world better. That's not hokey - it's practical.

Kesler Gabriel

October 3, 2008 4:43 AM

I think Google is adopting a corporate policy which a lot of other big companies avoid. Although they have no influence about the issue, they do try to bring public attention to this very important issue. Probably if more companies will bring attention to the importance of energy conservation and independence, the world will be a better place.

Of course I am not expecting anything from the Oil and Energy companies.

Sheldon Wexler

October 3, 2008 9:35 AM

I would like you to produce a car that produces 100 miles per Gallon.

brian

October 3, 2008 9:44 AM

In these energy plans, they site alternatives including wind, geothermal and solar. But they miss the best alternative of them all, which is driven by the gravity of the moon. Energy from the ocean's currents are not only without limit (as long as the moon and oceans are there) but are constantly on. No sunshine today...try and stop the tide. No wind today...try and stop the tide. So many cliches have been used for this force of nature, it amazes me that the "Smart" people have not figured this one out.

Andrew M.

October 3, 2008 9:47 AM

Energy efficiency doesn't even have to be a moral issue - it's purely logical.

Use less energy for the same amount of work. Efficient.
Cheaper.

Marianne Murphy

October 3, 2008 10:20 AM

Don't overlook energy conservation for near term benefits. With just a little effort we can save energy right away - and put money back into our own pockets. Turn off lights, reduce engine idling, and turn off the furnace or A/C when we leave the house. We don't have to wait for alternate energy funding to save energy $$$ and reduce GHG.

Ben K

October 3, 2008 11:22 AM

Nice to see everyone is on the same page here. We need more of that.

James

October 3, 2008 12:23 PM

We definitely need more of this and more of us.

Troy

October 3, 2008 2:55 PM

Ha-le-lu-la for Google. Every day I love this company more and more. Wish I could work there.

Wes

October 3, 2008 4:22 PM

It's great that Google can raise awareness of this issue. I hope they really push wind power. It's much cheaper than solar for the amount of energy it produces, therefore burning less coal. Good luck Google!

Spectator

October 3, 2008 4:30 PM

I am wondering how much energy could be saved if all households turn all electronics (PC, TV, DVD, VCR, etc) off when not in use instead of using stand-by mode.

AlxHamiltn

October 3, 2008 7:28 PM

“Google II:”

When, not if, Barack Obama is elected President of the United States, this "hokey" proposition, coupled with energy conservation and increased energy efficiency, will be driving the American economy and capital markets to new prosperity from Inauguration Day throughout the decade or two to come.

Mark this date and these words.

AlxHamiltn
managingpartner@project76.org

October 3, 2008

Prosper

October 4, 2008 12:10 PM

Interesting how multinationals have avoided this topic for so long. Makes you wonder...

Nica Faustino

October 4, 2008 12:40 PM

Google The World!

Let's not forget the impact of video conferencing can have in zillions of savings of CO2 emissions, travel costs, and GREEN impact. Google uses has more than 3,000 video units at a personal level across the world. Other companies are to wake-up to this ready-to-use technology NOW!

LAO

October 6, 2008 1:47 AM

Like Google management said in the first place, why shouldn't they be focused on energy -- they run a lot of equipment that represents their greatest routine expense, and their engineers have learned a lot about optimizing it, so why not turn those folks loose on the problem. So many corporations would abandon this talent instead of building upon it. Nobody can optimize like a good, motivated engineer. I wish them well.

Haegar Schmidt

October 7, 2008 12:43 AM

Google is just raiding the wave of green propaganda to maintain its "good guy" image. Funny people don't realize that.

Jim Snowden

November 29, 2008 9:58 AM

We are living in an interesting time. Most people are focused on how to get our existing technologies to operate in a more "green" friendly manner. For example, Google is focused on how to make their servers and other technologies operate more efficiently. At the same time, politicians and commuters keep demanding that we create more fuel efficient cars.

Why not invent a new paradigm? What if we were to invest our resources into improving the availability of "Telepresence" technology? This could have a dramatic impact on one of the greatest users of energy, travel. For more discussion, go to http://greentelepresence.blogspot.com/

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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