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New alliance from Google, GE will pursue clean energy with zeal

Google already announced that it wants the U.S. to use 100 percent alternative energy by 2030.  Now it has found a powerful ally to aid it in its quest.  Tech giant General Electric, one of America's most profitable companies, has announced an alliance with Google for creating a "smart" U.S. electric power grid and clean energy.

Half the new alliance's efforts will be dedicated to developing and investing in green energy technologies.  The other half will be in lobbying US political leaders to support alternative energy.

In a press release, the pair state:

Both companies believe that our economic, environmental and security challenges require that we use electricity more efficiently, generate it from cleaner sources, and electrify our transportation fleet.  This 21st century electricity system must combine advanced energy technology -- a major GE focus -- and cutting edge information technology -- a major Google focus.

Google has, since formally going public with the effort last year, been promoting its "renewable energy cheaper than coal" drive.  For the last two years, it dedicated a team of its engineers to developing alternative energy technologies in the effort to make alternative power sources cheaper than fossil fuels.

However, without an overhauled grid, the "road system" by which electricity travels in our country, the efforts will be for naught, Google acknowledges.  They propose that the grid be redesigned with green tech in mind. director of climate change and energy initiatives Dan Reicher says the current one way system is "dumb" and proposes a more functional design. 

Many agree that alternative energy or not, the grid is in danger of collapsing due to negligent maintenance and lack of upgrades from the power utilities.  This, they argue, is evidenced by the blackouts and brownouts that have hit parts of the nation over the past few years.  Part of the blame, according to Google, falls on the federal government and regulators for failing to promote and improve work on the grid.

Google's Reicher states, "How do you move policy in Washington to get a lot more transmission lines built so you can take advantage of wind in the Dakotas or sun in the Mojave Desert and move the electricity to cities far away?  Come January, with a new administration and new Congress, we can hopefully launch a major push to break down some of these barriers."

A smarter grid could allow electric cars, such as the new Chevy Volt, to act as battery storage when not in use, helping to level power demand.  It could also allow consumers to sell wind and solar power back to the grid.  Mr. Reicher describes, "The transmission system is about the last mile, to people's homes, and making technology available so people can better control their own energy."

Google hopes to provide some of the software to help control the complex mechanics of this two way interchange, with storage.  By teaming with GE it can offer software knowledge to the leader in power technology.

Google already has its own fleet of electric cars, and the new alliance vows to continue to promote and develop this technology.  Among the other initial efforts of the group will be to use GE's acumen and experience to effectively map geothermal resources.  Geothermal is one form of power Google believes to be very promising.

GE and Google say that they're not aiming to create a massive coalition, but would not be opposed to a couple other corporate superpowers joining them.

Google also made headlines when it announced recently that it was planning on possibly moving its data centers to sea on barges, for free tidal power and no property taxes.

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Answer to his question
By FITCamaro on 9/18/2008 11:25:26 AM , Rating: 5
Google's Reicher states, "How do you move policy in Washington to get a lot more transmission lines built so you can take advantage of wind in the Dakotas or sun in the Mojave Desert and move the electricity to cities far away?

By shutting up the environmental lobby who protest against the building of such transmission lines.

I'll all for upgrading the grid. But spending extra money just to suite the needs of unreliable, highly variable sources of energy? No.

And unless we want our electric prices to sky rocket, the power companies will need the same kind of tax breaks the oil companies get to pay for these upgrades. It will cost billions to upgrade the power grid.

RE: Answer to his question
By quiksilvr on 9/18/2008 11:51:57 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I think it would be easier to make the country more energy efficient BEFORE upgrading the power grids. Upgrading the power grids should be one of the last steps, mainly because it makes solar look cheap.

RE: Answer to his question
By Jose70mino on 9/18/2008 12:55:43 PM , Rating: 3
Why do they deserve tax breaks? Shouldn't they get penalized instead and not allowed to increase the rates? I mean, for how many years have these monopolies sucked all of our money and done zero to actually improve things. When the last hurricanes hit South Florida power poles were down by the thousands! What did they do? They increased rates by 15% and put the same obsolete poles back up! Isn't it their job to maintain and use some of the money they get from their profits to fix and upgrade the systems? Just because they neglected it for years and years, does that give them a free pass?

RE: Answer to his question
By FITCamaro on 9/18/2008 1:01:45 PM , Rating: 3
How exactly does a wooden pole become obsolete? And how do you know the hardware was the same? Even if it is, its likely because the system needs all the same hardware to work properly.

Isn't it their job to maintain and use some of the money they get from their profits to fix and upgrade the systems?

Fix yes. Upgrade no. They own the lines and the power plants. If they choose to do nothing, that's their choice. Now it is in their best interest since the more efficient the system is, the less power that is lost and the less they have to generate to meet demand.

RE: Answer to his question
By rudolphna on 9/18/2008 11:10:11 PM , Rating: 2
How exactly does a wooden pole become obsolete?

LOL Best line ive heard in weeks

RE: Answer to his question
By Kary on 9/19/2008 5:28:32 PM , Rating: 2
How exactly does a wooden pole become obsolete?

Termites :)

RE: Answer to his question
By tconlon3 on 9/24/2008 11:34:09 PM , Rating: 2
It's amazing. The rest of the world, including China uses low cost environmentally friendly cement telephone poles and railroad ties. We still use much more expensive wood poles and wood ties soaked in pesticides that wash into water tables. I had a conversation with an executive in a large utility co. who assured me that they had no desire to use wood and had long wanted to replace wood poles with cement. The problem is that the the continued use of wood was required by the labor union contract.

RE: Answer to his question
By Grast on 9/18/2008 1:27:18 PM , Rating: 2

The next thing you are going to say is that you DESERVE to own a house too. You are paying for a service which the electric company inkind provides you with power. How they spend their money is their decision. Not the decision of its customers unless you are a stock holder in the company and actually bother to vote for board members.

Plus, it is your fault that you live in Florida which gets hit by how many hurricanes every single year. What you have the power company do? Put all of the electric infrustructor in the groud... Oh wait... then during a hurricane instead of power poles being snapped. All of the electric transformers and control equipment would be flooded.

In the end, your comment our out of touch of reality.

RE: Answer to his question
By foolsgambit11 on 9/18/2008 2:29:40 PM , Rating: 3
While in most fields, I would agree with the principles you espouse, in non-competitive markets like utilities, where there are no market forces acting on the company, there is something to be said for the people (usually via the voice they have in the government) to set certain standards.

It is an expectation that, based on the non-competition granted to these companies, they operate based on a set, reasonable profit margin, and that they operate with the best interests of the public in mind.

Capitalist ideals only fly in a capitalist system, and utilities are decidedly uncapitalist.

RE: Answer to his question
By menace on 9/18/2008 11:29:17 PM , Rating: 3
Hey, they call it the "Sunshine State", just put some solar cells on your roof and get off the grid! Wait a minute - you say your roof flew off? Well then you have to upgrade your infrastructure and build a house out of concrete and not replace it with those "obsolete" 2x6's.

RE: Answer to his question
By legoman666 on 9/19/2008 9:22:31 AM , Rating: 1
As a Power Utility employee, I can safely call you a moron.


RE: Answer to his question
By andrewkfromaz on 9/18/2008 6:25:05 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, yes, YES. The problem with "green-collar" jobs, with this push by Google/GE, with the entire premise that the future of our country is tied to this "revolution of sustainable energy" is that the US has a long, long way to go in reducing energy use through more efficient appliances and light-bulbs, through changing behavior, and through increasing the efficiency of our buildings. Consumers will begin to decrease the demand for electricity before we see prices increase dramatically; look at gasoline prices and the demand destruction that has occurred just this summer.

Electricity use isn't the same as gasoline, but I really think the average American has a lot of room to decrease electricity usage. As prices rise, the incentive for doing so will be there.

Google and GE need to consider the diminishing returns to scale they will achieve before proposing anything that will cost too much money.

RE: Answer to his question
By SSneaky on 9/18/2008 9:18:27 PM , Rating: 1
Just how many seconds of the US operations in Iraq would it take to cover this cost? C'mon, guys, you are missing the point. Are you really that greedy that you wouldn't pay double the cost for electricity that you are paying now to have it be completely fossil-fuel free? I would, and where I live actually allows me to do that, so I do! This is about what is right, and not what is cheap and easy.

RE: Answer to his question
By jgvandemeer on 9/18/2008 10:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
Double? Try more like five times as much. If not wanting $1000 a month power bills is bad, then color me greedy.

RE: Answer to his question
By Spuke on 9/19/2008 5:23:21 PM , Rating: 2
Sometimes I WISH the high power bills would come rolling in so I can hear all the complaining and hate from these people.

Whiner #1: "I thought solar was supposed to lower my electric bill? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Whiner #2: "I thought when we dumped OPEC, our energy prices would go down? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

more lobbyists!!!
By Homerboy on 9/18/2008 12:11:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yahooo!!!! Just what this company needs. More special interest groups bending the ears (pocket books) of our politicians.

Interesting that GE would jump on this so quickly too... I mean they make a hefty profit from jet engines, diesel locomotives etc...

RE: more lobbyists!!!
By Master Kenobi on 9/18/2008 1:25:58 PM , Rating: 2
They also make a hefty sum in new energy effecient lighting technologies (CFL's) and other larger appliances.

RE: more lobbyists!!!
By akosixiv on 9/19/2008 3:59:35 AM , Rating: 3
we'll if green technology is the next thing that's going to power everything else, why not be the first to jump in and cash on it.

Starting timer.....
By HeavyB on 9/18/2008 11:23:10 AM , Rating: 1
... for the negative comments from the usual suspects. Ready, set, GO!

RE: Starting timer.....
By FITCamaro on 9/18/2008 11:26:09 AM , Rating: 1
Glad I didn't disappoint.

RE: Starting timer.....
By CommodoreVic20 on 9/18/2008 11:54:17 AM , Rating: 1
I couldn't agree more. If it were to the neigh sayers we'd still be living in caves arguing about how dangerous and unfeasible it would be to build a hut.

You first
By wookie1 on 9/18/2008 1:28:15 PM , Rating: 2
I would say to them - you first! If they want to propose this, I want to see them use 100% alternative energy for a while, and demonstrate that it is cheaper than coal from a total cost of ownership perspective. That's all that would need to be done to cause large shifts in power production as if it were cheaper then everyone would want to do it to maximize profits.

I suspect that while Google can afford this now, if their business and profits get pinched, they will have to ditch these distractions and money pits and focus on their business.

RE: You first
By foolsgambit11 on 9/18/2008 2:42:43 PM , Rating: 1
I guess you didn't read the article that was linked to on the "Renewable energy cheaper than coal" campaign. The campaign isn't an ad campaign saying that renewables are cheaper than coal, or anything like that. It's a campaign to promote technologies that will eventually make renewables cheaper than coal.

I'm sure once they've reached that point (if they reach that point), Google will be happy to demonstrate that it is cheaper than coal.

Are they really going to go green?
By jodhas on 9/18/2008 2:50:47 PM , Rating: 2
Just this past summer alone Google has been making many headlines trying to go green. First of all, I want to see that floating data center, er, floating in the ocean crunching numbers. Investing in geothermal research firms or creating strategic alliances such as the one mentioned above just sees very opportunistic at best. Efficient, potent, 'clean', cheap and proven alternative energy source is nuclear. Why isn't Google embracing nuclear but instead going for these highly niche alternative energy sources?

Where is Masher today? Isn't this his topic???

By menace on 9/18/2008 11:06:08 PM , Rating: 2
Many agree that alternative energy or not, the grid is in danger of collapsing due to negligent maintenance and lack of upgrades from the power utilities. This, they argue, is evidenced by the blackouts and brownouts that have hit parts of the nation over the past few years. Part of the blame, according to Google, falls on the federal government and regulators for failing to promote and improve work on the grid.

Myopic lawmakers, environmentalist lobbies and lawyers are to blame placing every roadblock in place they can to keep producers from making enough energy to meet demand and then the lawmakers demonize them either for making too much profit when the prices inevitably raise or having to ration the energy with rolling blackouts. If we can throw out the bastards then the only problem we can use google to solve is writing more robust software to manage power grid faults which should be more up their alley anyway.

By Dove2Three on 9/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Curious
By berkes on 9/18/2008 12:04:55 PM , Rating: 5
well ... Google ... GE ... new technologies ... what exactly defines TECH in your country ?

RE: Curious
By Dove2Three on 9/18/08, Rating: 0
RE: Curious
By bpurkapi on 9/18/2008 12:33:36 PM , Rating: 1
This is about upgrading the power grid and providing new tech, you must be blinded by your dislike for Mick, or anything remotely smelling of environmental issues. It's too bad, you might want to try reading some articles with an open mind and realize that two of America's most profitable companies are taking the lead on alternative energy tech and that is worth hearing about on a tech site.

RE: Curious
By Grast on 9/18/2008 1:35:11 PM , Rating: 5
A open mind you say. Lets see we have a company such a Google which uses more electricity that a small city spouting nothing but propaganda about how they want to change the world. We also have GE which if such an upgrade would commence would reap billions in profit. Each are self serving companies trying to cast a GREEN image and nothing more.

This is nothing more than propaganda. The real story is the evironmental groups are then ones which have prevented the upgrade of the power grid. They challenge all proposals to add additionaly long distance transmission lines. The power companies would love to upgrade their distrobution system. It is much cheaper on maintenance and replacement cost to operate the equipment at 60-70 percent of capability than 90-100 percent like today.

If you bother to actually do the research and discover who has stopped progress, you will find that so called enviromenntal groups are the cause.

Please keep your open mind comments to your self. Evironmentalist are the farest thing away from open minded.

RE: Curious
By bobsmith1492 on 9/18/2008 3:09:42 PM , Rating: 2

Nitpick: "Environmentalists are the furthest thing from open-minded."

RE: Curious
By TETRONG on 9/19/2008 2:34:07 AM , Rating: 2

You and I are the environment

RE: Curious
By legoman666 on 9/19/2008 9:24:30 AM , Rating: 2
It's called capitalism.

RE: Curious
By ytsejam02 on 9/19/2008 1:23:09 PM , Rating: 2
It's called capitalism.

Yep, just like the government taking over Wall Street is called capitalism... oh wait, that sounds more like communism...

RE: Curious
By Spuke on 9/19/2008 5:25:32 PM , Rating: 2
The government didn't take over Wall Street. They're giving out loans to certain financial institutions. More like socialism. I say, let them hit the sh!tter.

RE: Curious
By ytsejam02 on 9/19/2008 1:29:18 PM , Rating: 2
Let's no kid ourselves, their businesses. They are doing this primarily for money, and given these two giants, I'd say they see a lot of money in it. GE doesn't do much of anything without weighing the risks.

I'm not sure I'd agree that power companies would love to upgrade. I've never met a company that wants to upgrade to provide their customers with what they already have. There is little incentive. Even if it is more efficient, in general their customers won't feel that efficiency, and will just be upset when their rates go up. Hence we the customers, ultimately pay for it through our government providing them money and tax breaks.

Oh, and as for that last bit...

Evironmentalist are the farest thing away from open minded.

Agreed. Wanting to find alternative sources of energy is very closed minded. Staying the course is the epitome of open-mindedness... :-p

It's all about money people. Witness the crisis on wall street.

RE: Curious
By Spuke on 9/19/2008 5:58:33 PM , Rating: 2
Wanting to find alternative sources of energy is very closed minded.
And ignoring the present needs is also open minded. Goes both ways bud.

RE: Curious
By omnicronx on 9/18/08, Rating: 0
RE: Curious
By gregpet on 9/18/2008 2:38:28 PM , Rating: 3
or MSNBC, or CNN, or ABC, or NBC, or CBS....

RE: Curious
By foolsgambit11 on 9/18/2008 2:37:28 PM , Rating: 2
Well, Shane McGlaun wrote the story about improving efficiency of the ICE, which could be considered a green, 'tree hugger' issue. And Michael Barkoviak wrote the story about sending our toxic waste overseas, which could also be a 'tree hugger' issue.

Maybe the problem is that what you think is radical environmentalism is in fact mainstream. Maybe there's a lot of news about technology in the 'green' sector precisely because it's mainstream. And maybe you can just skip the articles you're not interested in, rather than complain about the availability of news and commentary.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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