Dan W. Reicher, a former assistant secretary of energy, has left Google, where he spent the last four years as director of climate change and energy initiatives. In that post he helped develop Google’s goal of seeking to make renewable energy less expensive than coal, abbreviated as RE<C.
Among his other accomplishments there were fielding the proposal that led Google to invest in a proposed underwater transmission grid off the Atlantic coast, running from Virginia to New Jersey. He also supervised the development of a fleet of Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrids. These were modified so their batteries could be plugged into the grid rather than charged by gasoline engines. The cars were parked under carports with solar cells on the roofs, and charging could be started or stopped with remote signals.
Now Mr. Reicher is moving on to Stanford, where he will be the executive director of a new interdisciplinary center for energy policy and finance that will straddle the law school (where Mr. Reicher earned a degree) and the business school. The new center was created with a $7 million donation from Thomas Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, both Stanford alumni. Mr. Steyer was co-chairman of the campaign to defeat Proposition 23, which would have rolled back California’s clean energy mandate.
Progress toward an embrace of renewable energy will rely on technology, policy and finance, he said, and the technology is marching forward in many areas, including solar and wind. “Wind and solar have come down the cost curves nicely,’’ he said. “They still have a distance to go but we’re making good progress. We’d be making even better progress if they had stronger, more reliable policy mechanisms.’’
“Policy is so critical, and it’s got to be policy that leverages capital,’’ said Mr. Reicher, who will teach in the law and business schools and conduct research.
He said that progress toward a renewable future had been promising but uneven. “Those are technologies for making renewable electricity,” he said. But renewable car fuel is harder, he said. “The hoped-for ability to make ethanol out of all sorts of plant materials still has quite a distance to go,’’ he said.
(The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged as much on Monday when it announced that fuel vendors would be required to use 6.6 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel in 2011, a 97 percent cut from the 250 million gallons that Congress originally set as a goal for that year. The problem is that producers have yet to find a viable recipe.)
On the other hand, Mr. Reicher said, various areas hold promise. “Geothermal may be one of the sleeping giants,’’ he said. Hot dry rock can be fractured and water pumped in to make steam that can be used to make electricity, he said, and geology suitable for the technology could be found in the eastern United States.By MATTHEW L. WALD/NYT