I keep seeing articles like this one: North American Windpower: How Google Has Emerged As A Beacon For Corporate Renewable Stewardship.
Google just has a knack for getting great PR for itself for doing things that are frankly just good business. Yes, Google made a commitment to be carbon-neutral -- great story and a noble goal. They are going greener all right -- with each dollar they make!
As the article notes, Google started with energy efficiency in its operations. In other words, they found ways to use less energy, which of course means they spend less on their energy costs. This should be a no-brainer for every business that has the ability to make some initial capital investments that will lower their yearly energy costs and pay for themselves over the long-term. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that Walmart has been preaching and implementing energy conservation measures for years:
Both Google and Walmart then turned to installing distributed generation on-site (primarily solar panels and fuel cell technologies like Bloom Boxes). Here again, they found a way to further lower their energy costs such that the distributed generation that they have installed will ultimately pay for itself over the long-term. Again good for the environment, great PR, and most importantly, good business. So what then is the new frontier? Google found it. Investment in renewable facilities that will make money for Google in the long run by selling renewable power to others. Again, this is just a good investment-- the upside for Google to be an investor is huge and again its great PR and it helps the environment. Investment in renewables is not a new idea, but only the largest energy companies and investment banks have been doing it so far-- mainly because getting involved in the energy business probably seemed too arcane for the average company.
Now Google went as far as to become an energy utility itself. I don't think that other companies pondering investment in renewables need to go that far, but hey we can help them do it if they so choose. But only Google has made waves so far as being the first non-energy related company to enter the investor market. Perhaps others will jump in now that they see that the water is warm.
Get some good PR and help the environment, all while making an intelligent investment -- a win-win-win for any company.