Google.org finances some of the RE<C initiative, the effort to find cheap electricity-generating power sources. "I know it's a little bit geeky," Larry Page said of the name renewable energy less than coal.[]

Currently there are no energy sources that produce electricity as cheaply as coal. Conversely, few are as dirty as coal. To compete economically, an alternative technology would need to cost from 1 cent to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour. To make solar energy more competitive, Google's goal is to cut the cost by as much as 50 percent.

At the 2008 Web 2.0 Conference, Larry Brilliant explained: "It's different than pick and shovel investments. It's important that we make money on these investments and for the companies to make a profit.... If they don't make money, no one else will and we won't be able to take advantage of capital flows and market forces."

Google has been criticized for investing in RE<C and other initiatives and allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to energy-producing technologies that have no relation to its core business. However, the $45 million investment could eventually both reduce Google's own energy costs and provide a dollar return to the company.

"If we meet this goal, and large-scale renewable deployments are cheaper than coal, the world will have the option to meet a substantial portion of electricity needs from renewable sources and significantly reduce carbon emissions," Larry said. "We expect this would ...

Get Google Speaks: Secrets of the World's Greatest Billionaire Entrepreneurs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.