Dan Reicher quits Google for Stanford policy shop. Is Washington next?

Dan Reicher: Leaving Google for Stanford

Former assistant energy secretary, NRDC attorney and all-around green energy superman Dan Reicher has left his post as Google’s director of climate change and green energy initiatives to join Stanford’s new energy policy and finance center.

Reicher’s departure has been framed in the context of Google’s widely reported struggles to hold onto top employees as the company expands and loses its startup feel but his leavetaking doesn’t fit this mold. He’s always been more of a policy guy  he was part of Obama’s transition team and was rumored to be on the short list for energy secretary  who seemed more interested in broader energy issues than even Google could accommodate.

That said, Reicher’s accomplished a lot at Google in the past year.

The company has started to realize its dual goals of promoting green energy through the motto RE<C (renewable energy cheaper than coal) and greening its own operation.

Notably, Reicher steered the company to expand its role in green energy from venture investor to making direct investments in several projects, including two of NextEra Energy’s North Dakota wind farms. Google also recently announced that it would finance the preliminary development of a grid system to support offshore wind farms.

At times, though, his goals at Google seemed to go beyond what someone working for a commercial enterprise could reasonably hope to accomplish.

When we spoke to him at an industry conference in New York last summer, he was stumping for the creation of a federal Clean Energy Deployment Administration, or Green Bank, that would help energy startups bridge the gap between early funding and deployment.

He talked about the limits of Google?s ability to affect change given the uncertainty of the regulatory climate and the federal government?s failure to provide stable funding for renewables.

He had turned to thinking about how to mobilize public support for initiatives like the Green Bank ? an idea that, really, was only peripherally related to Google?s goals.

At the new Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Reicher will be in a place that, according to Stanford’s press release, will ?provide a broad platform for research on energy policy and finance ? particularly legislative, regulatory and business tools ? that increase public support for and the flow of capital to clean energy technologies.?

It could well be a springboard back to government life, even a run at the energy secretary post.

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