Eight years ago, GE launched ecomagination to square population growth, natural resource scarcity and other looming global trends with sustainable economic expansion that helped the environment and made good business sense. “At GE we believe that innovation can solve the toughest environmental challenges,” says Mark Vachon, vice president of ecomagination. “Clean energy may go in and out of favor with policy makers. But our customers all want the same thing. They want to make their operations more efficient and productive.”
The program is working. According to a new progress report released today, the ecomagination portfolio added 34 new products and services and booked $21 billion in revenues in 2011. This brings total ecomagination sales to $105 billion, and portfolio offerings to 142 since launch. GE also invested more than $2 billion in R&D to develop new ecomagination products and technology last year. The money was part of the $10 billion the company said it would invest in ecomagination research over the first half of the decade.
Orange Revolution: The Waukesha 275GL+ natural gas engine produces lower greenhouse gas emissions relative to comparable natural gas engines. In one application, a Waukesha engine operating at the same horsepower as a competitive engine can avoid more than 1,900 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of more than 380 cars on U.S. roads.
What qualifies for the ecomagination portfolio? Any product that measurably improves customers’s operating and environmental performance, like improving efficiency and reducing emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. The products added last year include the FlexEfficiency*50, a first-of-its-kind combined cycle power plant that can rapidly change its grid electricity output and compensate for fluctuations in power supplied by wind and solar farms, and the RailEdge Movement Planner software technology that helps railroads move freight faster and smarter. The planner can help a rail network cut fuel consumption by 37 million gallons per year, which is equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from 73,000 U.S. cars.
Ecomagination also partnered with leading venture capital firms including Kleiner Perkins and Rockport Capital, and invested $134 million in 22 firms through its innovation challenge. The companies design energy-efficient prefabricated buildings (Project Frog), reduce data center power consumption (SynapSense), and develop utility monitoring systems (On-Ramp Wireless).
“Last year, we raised the bar, made great products and our revenue increased,” Vachon says. “We are only getting started.”