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Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, pictured here in June, says Google has been studying renewable energy to ensure that the company is "doing the right things."
Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, pictured here in June, says Google has been studying renewable energy to ensure that the company is "doing the right things." Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A partnership between Internet search giant Google and General Electric is designed to invest in — and promote — technologies for renewable energy.
The plan for the partnership, announced Wednesday, is to establish renewable-energy plants, promote plug-in electric cars and transform the nation's electricity grid.
Although it's an Internet company, Google has a vested interest in renewable energy because it consumes a vast amount of energy — and contributes to waste — with its data centers, says Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt.
"Understand that the energy prices drive the cost of Google," Schmidt tells NPR's Michele Norris. "So if we can spend money now to save money in the future, that ultimately produces better long-term shareholder value."
Schmidt says Google has been studying the grid to ensure that the company is "doing the right things."
"The story's not good — the electrical grid and the power transmission have had very little investment over the last 20 or 30 years," Schmidt says. "While all of us have ended up with our digital cameras and mobile phones ... the underlying infrastructure that we use does not have the kind of technology investment that it should have."
The program will include both a research push to refine new clean energy sources and a lobbying effort meant to push policymakers toward smarter distribution paths.
Schmidt says the broader implications surrounding energy and climate change are compelling.
"If you assume that the two largest issues in the world are the possibility of death by nuclear bomb — nuclear proliferation — and climate change over a 50- to 100-year period in terms of the number of people they're going to affect," Schmidt says, "[for] at least one of the two most important things in the world, we can help."
As the head of a technology company looking at how things are used, Schmidt says he's privy to the incredible amount of waste generated in the country — and he acknowledges Google is a contributor.
One solution for the company to cut down on electricity waste was to put its data servers near dams, which have "excess electrical load and capacity," Schmidt says.
Unfortunately, Schmidt says, the company has "run out of places to do that kind of power."
Schmidt says that by 2030, the U.S. should be using renewable energy for 100 percent of its power generation. He adds that the company's calculations show that this is a conservative estimate assuming constant use.
He suggests the federal government put together a stimulus package to try to redo the energy infrastructure in the U.S.
"Think about it," he says. "It would create a lot of high-paying jobs; the jobs would be in interesting places where there's a joblessness issue: rural areas, places with a lot of wind, a lot of solar, a lot of heat. All of those would contribute to energy security. The next wars are all going to be about oil, aren't they? Why don't we remove that from the equation? And as a byproduct, really make a dent in this climate-change issue."