Because many of us are captivated by the extraordinary goings-on in Washington, on Wall Street and in the presidential campaign, it’s easy to overlook everything else that’s happening in the world of business. But an unusual bi-coastal alliance between GE and Google caught my attention last week, and so it is the topic of my latest Sustainability column at fortune.com and cnnmoney.com.
GE and Google don’t have a lot in common, but the industrial giant and the Internet powerhouse share an interest in renewable energy. So they have come together to lobby for a so-called smart electricity grid and to collaborate, albeit in an unspecified way, in research into geothermal energy.
Here’s how the column begins:
When companies as savvy and as important as General Electric and Google join forces, it’s worth a closer look. The companies say they will work together to drive two industries with big growth potential: geothermal energy and the upgrading of the nation’s overburdened electricity grid.
The two industries are related, of course. Renewable energy, whether from wind, the sun or geothermal, which taps into the heat below the surface of the earth, won’t be deployed on a vast scale until the electricity grid can carry more power and deliver it more intelligently.
A more robust grid, often called a smart grid, would be able to move electricity in both directions (not just from central power plants to users), monitor usage better, enable more sophisticated pricing schemes and use advanced sensors to pinpoint outages.
“The smart grid is all about marrying energy technology and information technology,” said Bob Gilligan, a vice president for transmission and distribution at GE Energy, during a conference called Smart Grid this week in Washington, D.C. Without a stronger and smarter grid, the so-called clean tech revolution will come to a grinding halt.
Upgrading the grid will likely be a slog. Two famously sluggish bodies–the federal goverment and the utility industry–basically run the grid. But the geothermal play is intriguing. The potential for geothermal energy, which often gets overshadowed by solar and wind, is huge. If you want to know more, this Google website and YouTube video are worth a look.
You can read the rest of the column here.