Did Google give up on the planet?

Google is quite a big proponent of renewable energy. They have made all kinds of investments in wind, solar, geothermal, etc. Some are to generate clean energy for their own needs, others are more akin to financing deals to help big wind and solar farms get built. In any case, it is very commendable work and if more big corporations had the long-term vision of Google, the world would definitely be in better shape.

But sadly, one of their most promising clean energy projects has just gotten the axe. Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal which was launched in 2007 via the Foundation, aimed to drive down the cost of renewable energy via R&D efforts until it was cheaper than coal, the magic point at which adoption would reach escape velocity…

Of course, Google was always kind of an outsider in the energy industry, and their efforts were never the biggest or most successful. But they have lots of money, staying power, and capacity to attract talented engineers. That’s got to count for something, and by folding its efforts rather than re-focusing them, Google is giving up too early.

I understand that Larry Page, the co-founder of Google who became CEO this year, wants to keep the company focused on fewer things, but this was the kind of high-risk/high-reward projects that should have been kept, in my opinion. Hopefully this only means that they’ll do less R&D, but will still keep making the big direct investments in wind and solar that they’ve made in the past few years.