Google’s Climate Change Head to Lead New Stanford Energy School

As Director of Climate Change Initiatives for Google (s GOOG) over the past three years, Dan Reicher has been an inexhaustible, high-profile symbol of Google’s interest in energy policy: participating in congressional hearings, and speaking at energy policy events. But starting today, he’ll no longer lead the search engine giant’s climate change initiatives, and has jumped ship to head up Stanford’s new $7 million Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, an interdisciplinary project that will bring together the Stanford Law School and the Graduate School of Business to look at how policy and financing can deliver the future of clean energy infrastructure.

It’s a move out of the private sector and into the world of academia, but Reicher told me in an interview today that he’ll be actively engaging with Silicon Valley’s energy tech startups and investors to help shape the center’s work: “We have to think about the problem of energy as a triangle with three corners: technology, policy and finance. At the Center, I want to use the second and third corners to develop the first.” Reicher is a former policy wonk, advising President Obama’s transition team on clean energy, and also served in the Clinton administration DOE as assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Research at the Stanford institution will include investigating and helping shape federal energy financing mechanisms, like loan guarantees, tax credits, R&D spending, and other types of federal funding that can help move pilot projects into commercial deployments. Combined with looking at private financing from VCs, equity investors and debt financing, Reicher says the Center will look at the best way for “trillions of dollars to be funneled into clean energy technology over the coming years.”

Reicher told me not to be surprised if there are future congressional hearings about the Center’s work, and his researchers will help build tangible financial tools to help energy tech investors. In particular, Reicher is bullish on an entity called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration, or CEDA, which was proposed in Spring 2009 in the 21st Century Clean Energy Technology Deployment Act and was created to help lure private capital “off the sidelines” for energy tech.

When it comes to an energy bill — which has so far failed to get passed by the U.S. Congress — Reicher is also somewhat optimistic: “I think there remains a decent shot of moving the energy bill forward in the 2011 time frame.” On the emerging trend of some VCs rethinking their greentech investments, Reicher said, “The VC community is seeing that success in energy tech takes a lot longer than success in IT. That’s why the policy world is so important. In IT, we look at months and years, and [with] energy tech, it’s years and decades.”

In December 2009, at the COP 15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, I checked in with Reicher, who led a call to action on consumer access to energy information at the event. This year, Reicher isn’t planning to make the trip to Cancun for COP 16. He said, “For the most part, folks have modest expectations for the Cancun talks. That’s understandable. So it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of there.”

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Image courtesy of Google.