Google’s Top Climate and Energy Expert Tells Maine Audience
NRCM news release
In a keynote address to a Portland audience Wednesday evening, a spokesperson from internet powerhouse Google described his company’s vision of a clean energy future for the United States.
Dan Reicher, Google’s Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, predicted that renewable energy will help the U.S. phase out coal-fired power plants, that plug-in hybrid vehicles getting 90 miles per gallon will become the hottest selling cars on the market, and that information technologies will enable homeowners to dramatically cut energy costs and save money. This clean energy future also will create millions of jobs.
“Clean energy is emerging as the next big economic, business, and technology opportunity, and the race is on around the globe,” said Reicher, who spoke at an event organized by the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Momentum will build during the years ahead, especially if the U.S. passes new climate and energy legislation and an international treaty is reached to address the threat of climate change.”
Google has invested tens of millions of dollars in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. The company has its own engineers working on energy software and hardware and is investing in a broad range of clean energy companies.
“Our current energy path is not sustainable. We know that we have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. As carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere continue to increase, we are heading toward a danger zone,” said Reicher. “Innovation will be a key part of the answer to this problem, especially in the areas of technology and policy. Google plans on being part of the solution.”
Reicher believes that Maine can be part of the solution, too. “You have been innovators in the policy arena, and you are taking important steps forward to establish leadership in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Maine’s Senators also will have a vital role to play to ensure passage of climate and clean energy legislation,” said Reicher.
One of Google’s initiatives is to make renewable energy less costly than coal – the current energy source that contributes the most to climate pollution. To help advance this objective, Reicher described Google’s investments in companies that are working, for example, to dramatically reduce the cost of solar mirrors for solar energy plants and to develop advanced geothermal technology. The company is using some of Google’s existing information tools – Google Earth and Google Maps – to better understand the availability of the geothermal resource.
Google also is experimenting with plug-in hybrid vehicles. The company has converted two types of hybrid cars, the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape, so that they can be recharged by plugging them in at night. And the company is directing some of its world-class computer skills to designing a “smart charging” system that will enable millions of plug-in vehicles to integrate smoothly into the national electrical grid.
This week, Google announced a partnership with the manufacturer of a device that provides real-time household electricity use information, using Google PowerMeter software. “The idea is to give people more information so that they understand how much electricity they are using, and when – so they can make informed decisions that save energy and money.”
Reicher works for the philanthropic unit of Google that has been capitalized with more than $1 billion of Google stock to make investments and to advance policy in areas of climate change and energy, global poverty and global health. As a large electricity consumer, Google has been working to increase its use of clean energy and to implement energy efficiency measures at their data centers and offices. But the company is also involved in national policy discussions.
With eleven other major U.S. corporations, Google recently signed “An Open Letter to the U.S. Senate” on the importance of passing federal climate legislation this year; other companies on the letter include Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Du Pont, and Hewlett Packard.
In late September, Google launched the first episode of a web-based “climate change simulator” video series that will provide three-dimensional video depictions of the impacts of climate change on the earth. The videos use Google Earth technology and data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change. The first video is narrated by former Vice President Al Gore.
Google’s energy team has developed a proposal called “Clean Energy 2030” for how the U.S. could greatly reduce fossil fuel use over the next two decades, with the potential of weaning the U.S. off coal and oil for electricity generation and cutting oil use for cars by 44%.
Mr. Reicher’s address was delivered as part of the annual meeting for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary. At the beginning of the year, NRCM announced plans to hold 50 events and activities as part of a year-long celebration. The program with Mr. Reicher turned out to be the 50th event held this year, and there are many more still planned.
Prior to his position at Google, Mr. Reicher was Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under President Clinton, a member of the Obama Presidential Transition Team, co-founder of a private equity firm that invests in clean energy projects, and executive vice president of a venture-backed renewable energy company.