GE posts 2010 reductions in energy, emissions; misses on water

General Electric releases its 2010 Ecomagination annual report, citing reductions in energy and emissions but missing on water conservation.

American multinational conglomerate General Electric on Monday released its Ecomagination annual report, citing reductions in energy and emissions and nearly $2 billion investment in research and development for clean technology.

The company said 2010 was a year to assess its work in greening its operations and products, affirming that its commitments and overall course continued to benefit the business as a whole. Read between the lines and that translates to, "we probably could have done better."

Highlights were as follows:

  • In 2010, GE invested $1.8 billion in Ecomagination R&D, its first year in a commitment to invest $10 billion cumulatively by 2015.
  • Last year, GE set a goal to grow Ecomagination revenues at twice the rate of total company revenue within the next five years; in 2010, GE added 22 new products and services that generated $18 billion in revenues. (GE says there was growth here, but did not say how much.)
  • GE reduced its energy intensity by 1 percent over 2009, for a cumulative 33 percent reduction over its 2004 baseline, surpassing its goal of 30 percent by 2012. Its overall goal is to improve energy intensity of its operations by 50 percent by 2015.
  • GE reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent over 2009 levels, a 24 percent reduction over its 2004 baseline. The company's goal is to reduce absolute GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2015.
  • GE backpedaled in water use, increasing 8 percent over 2009, using 11.9 billion gallons. GE insists it's "still on track" to exceed a goal of 20 percent reduction by 2012; this year rated as a 22 percent reduction from its 2006 baseline.
  • GE relaunched its Ecomagination website as part of its "keep the public informed" goal. Of course, it's very difficult to measure the impact of this move; a rough snapshot of the site's traffic shows a big drop in 2011 that may have prompted the company to reconsider its activity here. (It's slowly gaining traction, however.)

On the product front, highlights from 2010 include the company's WattStation electric vehicle charging station; Nucleus energy management software for smart meters; a high-efficiency CT scanner; energy efficient datacenters; several new engines and locomotives and its RailEdge Movement Planner, a solution to help trains run more efficiently on limited track.

Progress? For sure, although reading the report you get the sense that there wasn't as much as was hoped for, since most successes were not measured compared to last year's figures but to a baseline from the first term of George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, the company is looking to more efficient gas turbines and thin film solar panels to drive efficiencies in 2011. Can it keep the momentum? We'll find out.

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