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Google, General Electric Push Renewable Energy, Grid Technology

The companies are promoting development of hybrid electric plug-in vehicles and the electrical infrastructure necessary to support the so-called "smart grid."

During Google's annual Zeitgeist gathering of industry, media, and political leaders at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters on Wednesday, Google along with General Electric announced a joint effort to expand consumer energy options and to develop a "smart" electrical grid.

In a blog post summarizing the plan, Michael Terrell, a member of energy and climate change team at Google's philanthropic arm, said, "It would be fair to refer to electricity technologies in common use today as a 'grid of only average intelligence.'"

Last year, Google launched its RechargeIT initiative, to promote the development of hybrid electric plug-in vehicles and the electrical infrastructure necessary to support more diverse energy use scenarios, the so-called "smart grid." The project showed that a plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius can average 93 miles per gallon.

The purpose of the "smart grid" is to enable more efficient use and distribution of energy. Ideally, consumers and businesses will be able to use the "smart grid" to sell energy that they have collected or generated to power providers when prices are high and to buy energy during times of low demand when prices are low. It should also provide users of electrical appliances with more insight into and control over device energy usage.

Google's new energy alliance with GE is focused on policy as much as technology.

"One of the things we are announcing today is that General Electric and Google are going to be essentially advocating in Washington the development of a new, smarter grid, to enable a lot of this," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt during a conversation with GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt. "And we think many companies are going to participate in this because it makes such good sense."

"Clean energy is eminently doable, eminently solvable," said Immelt.

During the event, former Vice President Al Gore praised Immelt for adding his voice to the discussion about renewable energy and national energy policy. "I just want to compliment Jeff not only for providing leadership within General Electric but also for having the political courage to speak up in Washington, D.C., and to join with other business leaders -- not as many as we should have -- to advocate policies," he said.

Beyond lobbying for new electrical transmission capacity to connect renewable energy sources to the grid, Google and GE plan to work jointly on geothermal technology and enabling the large-scale integration of plug-in vehicles with the grid.

"It is important for this country to have an energy policy and that ought to be one of the first jobs of whoever the next president is," said Immelt.

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