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GE Ecomagination Celebrates 10th Year, Launches Impact Partnership

Bob Siegel headshotWords by RP Siegel
Energy & Environment
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I can remember when GE first came out with the Ecomagination initiative back in 2005. At the time it was considered a bold, and even somewhat risky, move to double up on its investment in clean tech and make it a strategic imperative for the company. CEO Jeffrey Immelt said there were two reasons for taking this on. First, he saw it as a tremendous business opportunity, and second, he said that businesses needed to step up to the plate and do more about global environmental issues.

Today the company is celebrating the 10th anniversary of that launch with the announcement of a new partnership initiative, dubbed Transforming Tomorrow: Partners for Global Impact.  These new strategic partners, including Total, Walmart, Intel, Statoil, BHP Billiton, Masdar, MWH Global and more, convened for a dialogue on the need for business to lead the world in finding resource-efficiency solutions.

It would seem that Immelt was correct. Ecomagination has generated some $200 billion in business for GE. The good that's been achieved in the course of all that clean-tech deployment is difficult to measure, but without a doubt it has been substantial. Internally, the company has reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 31 percent and freshwater use by 42 percent, exceeding targets and saving $350 million in the process.

TriplePundit spoke with Deb Frodl, GE Ecomagination’s global executive director, about the announcement. Frodl has held this role since 2012. Prior to that she was GE’s chief strategy officer and global alternative fuels leader.

“We are super excited to be partnered up with eight industry leaders who are like-minded and focused on innovation, sustainability and problem-solving," Frodl said. "These partners will help us scale our solutions globally and increase our impact.”

Included in the partnership are the following companies:


  • Statoil: oil and gas solutions with reduced environmental impact

  • Masdar: decreased energy intensity in wastewater treatment operations

  • Walmart: accelerate commercial adoption of efficiency products and solutions

  • Total: industrial clean energy in emerging markets

  • MWH Global: increase rate of water reuse and reduce water scarcity

  • Bhpbilliton: reduce the energy intensity of mining

  • Intel: digital technology to reduce water and energy waste in manufacturing

As the result of these partnerships, the company expects to see the following results by 2020:

  • Half of all new electric power additions will be renewable

  • The industrial Internet will double resource productivity

  • Gas and solar will displace a third of remote diesel generators

  • Energy storage costs will be cut in half

  • 25 percent of all energy-industry jobs will be in clean tech

  • One billion smart meters will be installed

  • Fuel cell installations will grow by 400 percent

  • Industrial, desalination and water reuse will grow by a third

  • New coal power plants will achieve 50 percent efficiency (it’s less than 33 percent today)

  • Global transportation efficiency will improve by 10 percent

How will the partnership function? According to Frodl, it will vary. In some cases there will be co-development; in others the partners will deploy GE’s technology and help it to achieve scale, while in some cases, it will be a question of providing thought leadership. For the most part, GE will work with one company at a time, rather than working with the partners as a group. But there may well be some opportunities for cross-collaboration, or what Frodl calls “a network effect.”

One example is the partnership with Statoil, which launched earlier this year, aimed at reducing energy and water usage as well as emissions in oil and gas operations. In natural gas fracking operations in North Dakota, for example, GE is collaborating with Ferus Natural Gas Fuels to divert gas that would have otherwise been flared and using it to power equipment. It's also working with Statoil to explore the possibility of economically substituting CO2 for water in fracking operations.

These examples show that GE is clearly following an all-of-the-above strategy when it comes to energy development in the near term. GE has, of course, been involved in all manner of energy generation for many years. And now as the world transitions into a clean-energy paradigm, the company is not only helping to proliferate numerous clean options, but it's also working to help some of the older systems operate in a more efficient manner and with a reduced level of environmental impact.

Another example of the partnership in action is the work GE is doing with MWH Global on the implementation of technology for wastewater reuse, as well as an energy-neutral wastewater treatment project.

The energy-neutral technology is developed in collaboration with a company that GE acquired called Monsal and is piloted by Masdar, Abu Dhabi's renewable energy company. It uses advanced anaerobic digestion technology to produce methane and other useful byproducts, which can make the wastewater treatment plant energy neutral -- or even energy positive. This is another great example of companies stepping up to the plate and working together for a positive impact.

Hopefully the next 10 years will bring all that's been promised and more, because we will surely need it.

For more information on the partnership, check out the infographic below.

Images courtesy of GE Ecomagination

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

 

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