Google Discusses Clean Energy Plan


Google is continuing to push a national energy plan that embraces efficiency and renewable power.

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt has reiterated Google’s desire for a national energy plan that will cut greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half by 2030.

Schmidt touted his plan, the latest in a string of mentions going back to late 2008, during an environmental conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal late last week. He claimed that such a plan would be good for the country, while helping Google financially.

“What’s really first at Google is about changing the world, in a positive way,” Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray. “Can we make a difference? In our case, we’re huge energy users, so a relatively straightforward solution to our energy costs goes right to the bottom line.”

The plan sets a date of 2030 for getting U.S. utilities entirely off carbon fuels, an effort that Schmidt estimates will cost roughly $3.5 trillion (£2.5tn) over a 22-year period. This will involve establishing a renewable portfolio standard or policy that dictates ever-increasing production of renewable energy, paired with substantial boosts in the percentages of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, while keeping nuclear power at its current levels.

On its official blog, Google claims to have invested more than $45 million (£33m) in renewable-energy startup companies in 2008 alone.

“We must dramatically increase federal R&D and enact measures supporting the rapid deployment and scaling of clean technologies such as long-term tax support and national renewable energy standards,” Dan Reicher, director of climate change and energy initiatives, and Jeffery Greenblatt, climate and energy technology manager for, wrote on the Google blog on 1 Oct, 2008. “Progress will accelerate when the price of carbon reflects its true costs to society. Putting a price on carbon through cap-and-trade or a carbon tax would help address this.”

Other necessities would include switching transportation over to clean fuels and improving the nation’s grid technology to deliver renewable energy, something that Google’s chief executive is hoping the Obama administration can take the lead in initiating.

Schmidt said his plan will ultimately make money, generating “on a cost basis a savings of $4.4 trillion.”

Promoting energy efficiency is good for Google, which has been criticised for its energy usage by Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross. In January, Wissner-Gross claimed to a UK newspaper that two Google searches of up to several minutes’ duration could generate 14 grams of CO2, close to what it takes to boil a kettle of water for tea.

At the time, John Buckley, managing director of environmental consultancy Carbon Footprint, was cited in the London Times as putting Google’s per-search CO2 emissions at between 1 and 10 grams; Chris Goodall, author of “Ten Technologies to Save to the Planet,” claimed the carbon expenditure was between 7 and 10 grams.

Kevin Marks, a Google OpenSocial evangelist, said, “Google’s data centers are carbon-neutral, so it is only the client end you do have to worry about. However, breathing generates about 6g of carbon every 10 minutes.”

In February, Google officials announced that the company was designing a software tool called Google PowerMeter, which consumers can use to track their energy consumption from their computers in real time.

“Companies always couch these things in altruistic terms, but they also benefit directly from any efficiencies in the energy area,” Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said in an interview. “With Google or anyone else, there’s an element of being a very large player that gives you a lot of voice.”

Being Google CEO “gave [Schmidt] the megaphone,” Kay added, “and it’s too good to resist.”