By Ann Condon and Brandon Owens | Ecomagination
As a 130 year old technology company, GE has always believed in progress — in taking risks to improve technology and build a brighter future. From the invention of the first practical incandescent light bulb to building America’s first Central Power Station, GE has a tradition of life-changing innovations.
A decade ago in 2005, GE launched Ecomagination with a simple but bold vision: resource productivity made economic sense. Ecomagination is GE’s business strategy to provide cleaner technology solutions that improve resource efficiency and economics for its customers, and to improve efficiency in GE’s own operations.
Over the last ten years, Ecomagination has demonstrated that improving efficiency to reduce environmental impact while enhancing business performance—has been a winning strategy. What began as a $700 million annual investment in cleaner R&D has matured into $15 billion invested from 2005 to 2014. Ecomagination is more than just a technology portfolio; it is part of GE’s culture.
Every year, GE strives to champion new technology that pushes the boundaries of efficiency as an essential part of the high-performance solutions it offers to customers. Some examples:
- GE’s Ecomagination certified Evolution Series locomotives have saved customers $98 million in fuel costs since 2005 by avoiding 41 billion gallons of diesel fuel use through increased efficiency. Along the way, they’ve avoided 463 thousand tons of carbon dioxide.
- GE’s Ecomagination Certified GE90-11B and GEnx jet engines have saved GE’s airline customers 105 million barrels of jet fuel since 2005, which has led to the avoidance of 47 million tons of carbon dioxide.
- Since 1995, GE’s Ecomagination certified ZeeWeed membranes have been hard at work treating industrial and municipal wastewater to enable this water to be reused. Today, 1.2 billion gallons of wastewater treated by ZeeWeed membranes every day
In 2015, GE is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Ecomagination and what has been accomplished through this strategy. But it is more than that—it’s about looking ahead and doing better. It’s about building on 10 years of experience and working with others to tackle today’s toughest challenges. Developing the next-generation of economically and environmentally beneficial solutions is no easy task. The resource challenges that existed ten years ago persist and new challenges have emerged that will require new inspiration and greater resolve.
Population increases, the rate and pattern of economic growth, technology innovation and increasing interconnections have driven growing pressure on global resources over the last decade. The world’s population has been on the rise. Eight hundred million people have been added in just the last 10 years—and 95 percent of the population growth has occurred in less developed regions with lower income levels and less access to water, energy and food. The United Nations believes that the decade ahead will bring more of the same—another 800,000 people almost exclusively clustered in the developing world.[i]
In 2005, world gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $56.8 trillion (2005 USD). By 2015, the size of the global economy reached $73.8 trillion. That an increase of 30 percent. Emerging and developing economies accounted for 70 percent of global economic growth over the last decade. Within the next decade, GE expects the size of the world economy to reach $98.1 trillion. That’s another 33 percent increase with 60 percent expected to occur in the developing world.[ii] Moving forward, a greater level of resources will be needed to enable growing populations to meet their basic needs; more resources will be required to fuel the global economic engine order to sustain growth. And it will have to be done in a way that minimizes the impact on the environment.
The fight against Climate Change has become a defining feature of our times. Over the last 10 years, global carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) from energy production have risen from 26,900 million tons (Mt) to 31,800 million. On the current trajectory, in the decade ahead, CO2 emissions are expected to continue to rise another 20 percent to 37,600 Mt.[iii] Stemming the rising tide of GHG emissions will require less carbon intensive energy technologies and new approaches to energy production and consumption. New innovations and smart policies will be required to break the connection between economic growth and Climate Change.
Innovations over the last decade have created new opportunities as we confront today’s global resource challenges; but these challenges cannot be confronted alone. We all have a role to play. GE is leveraging its Ecomagination strategy to accelerate innovation in clean and more efficient solutions by bringing together the best of the physical and digital worlds to increase resource productivity and help the planet do more with less. But GE only has one part of the solution, and that’s not enough.
This is where partnerships come in.
Innovation in today’s world will require collaboration and commitment from those with different perspectives and alternative solutions, but a common drive to make the world a better place. In this 10th anniversary year, Ecomagination is evolving to include global strategic partnerships designed to address the world’s most pressing economic and environmental challenges. These partnerships will enable us to help power the future, together.
This is the future of Ecomagination at GE.
[i] United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects 2015 Revision.
[ii] General Electric economic forecast.
[iii] International Energy Agency (IEA) (2014) World Energy Outlook 2014. Current policies scenario.
Ann Condon, Director, Resource & Environmental Strategies, Corporate Environmental Programs, GE
Ann leads GE’s efficiency, stewardship and product environmental compliance programs across GE’s global supply chains. Her team works closely with GE’s businesses on resource efficiency, product and chemical stewardship and life cycle management to achieve compliance, find competitive advantages and promote sustainable business growth. Her group supports GE’s ecomagination initiative by providing regulatory and technical expertise, setting and reporting the ecomagination operating goals, and providing leadership on the policy and value chain aspects of GE’s ecomagination growth strategy.
Brandon Owens, Director, Strategy and Analytics, GE
Brandon Owens is an economist, energy analyst, researcher, and writer. His research has been published in industry-leading journals such as INFORMS, Public Utilities Fortnightly, Energy Policy, and Research Evaluation. A keynote speaker and expert witness, Mr. Owens has been cited in periodicals such as the New York Times and USA Today. The author of GE’s 2014 whitepapers “Digital Resource Productivity” and “The Rise of Distributed Power,” Mr. Owens is currently the director of ecomagination Strategy & Analytics at GE, where he helps guide the strategic direction of GE’s flagship corporate sustainability program. Prior to this role, he was the Manager of Strategy & Analytics within GE Energy’s Global Strategy & Planning group.