Energy and climate represent two of the most important business challenges of this century. Energy—its generation, use and transmission—is critical to the global economy and personal advancement. Finding ways to help emerging economies meet rising demand for energy—set to grow 40% over the next two decades—is essential for economic and human development. At the same time, expanding fossil-fuel use is leading to increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change, which threatens future development.
As a key company in the energy sector, GE focuses on providing its customers with cleaner and more productive solutions to meet rising energy demand while producing fewer environmental impacts in our own operations and value chains.
At GE, we believe in putting innovation to work to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. In 2005, we committed to invest in R&D, launch new solutions that save money and reduce environmental impact for our customers, and minimize our own environmental footprint. We call this commitment Ecomagination.
Since 2005, Ecomagination has become one of GE’s most successful cross-company initiatives. We have invested $15 billion in R&D and generated almost $200 billion in revenues from Ecomagination-qualified products. Within our own operations we have reduced our GHG emissions by 31% and freshwater use by more than 42% through 2014.
Since we launched our first operational goals, we have sharpened our strategy and efforts. Over the last decade, we have realized the greatest benefits through projects that deliver improved environmental performance and significant economic benefits, shown through cost reductions as well as productivity improvements. We have identified many of our best projects by applying lean, multistakeholder collaborative workouts, such as the Treasure Hunt process. These events have yielded great improvements such as:
- In our Peebles, Ohio, GE Aviation facility, we have reduced fuel consumption and GHG emissions per GE90 production engine test by 60% since 2004
- In the Shanghai, China Technology Center, we reduced GHG emissions by 2,100 MT CO2e per year through improved air cooling systems
- In the Shreveport, Louisiana, GE Energy Management site we reduced GHG emissions by 24% from 2012 to 2013 through air-handling efficiency and installing an innovative, efficient air compressor that uses waste heat to regenerate the desiccant in the drying system
The resource landscape is dynamic, and new challenges exist today. To meet these head-on, GE has committed to bring our total investment in Ecomagination R&D to $25 billion by 2020 to advance research in natural gas, low-cost renewable energy, and power plant efficiencies. We will also build on our previous success to reduce GHG emissions and freshwater use by 20% from our 2011 baseline.
These challenges are ambitious. As GE’s business grows to meet demands for solutions to global challenges, so will our footprint. Since 2004, we have implemented more than 2,400 energy-saving projects globally and developed a smart approach to growth. Having completed many of these projects using well-established criteria, the more challenging work ahead will require deeper technical expertise and innovative manufacturing solutions. One example that points to the future is our success in reducing the potent GHG sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) in our Clearwater, Florida, facility. By applying innovations including capturing, separating and reusing the gas, we reduced SF6 emissions in the process by 68%.
In the face of growth our focus on continuous improvement will always yield opportunities, especially when coupled with GE’s resource-efficient technologies. The smart growth we’ve experienced at our Oroszlany site is one example.
The site has reduced water use per part by nearly 40% since 2006 and is now implementing a GE Water reverse osmosis membrane unit to treat onsite wastewater, even reusing the wastewater within manufacturing operations. We’ll face more, tougher projects like Clearwater and Oroszlany as we drive towards the 2020 goal.
Today’s Ecomagination expands our view from “traditional” sustainable technologies like wind, solar and fuel cells to heavy industries like mining, unconventional resources, and oil and gas. GE is creating solutions that work today, that account for local demands—and that are built to last—with software-based, brilliant machines that help optimize industrial operations.
For much more on Ecomagination, GE Ventures, our other collaborations and our progress, see Ecomagination Progress.