While it may not have the most easily expressible name, the idea behind Google.org’s Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C) initiative is an exciting one. Their aim is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity at a lower price than a similarly sized coal facility would be. A gigawatt is about what one large nuclear reactor puts out, and is sufficient to power a city like San Francisco. Notably, their aim is to beat the standard commercial price of coal, not the price that would exist if factors like pollution and climate change were taken into account.
The project is initially focused on concentrating solar power, where mirrors are used to concentrate sunlight and generate heat to turn a turbine; wind power; and enhanced geothermal energy, where the interior heat of the planet is accessed through artificial rather than natural channels.
If RE<C succeeds, it will be a major accomplishment. Right now, most people assume that renewables will always be slow to deploy and more expensive than fossil fuel alternatives. If Google’s charitable arm can show both of those assumptions to be invalid, people will start questioning more and more whether all the health, environmental, and security costs of fossil fuel dependence are worth it.