In 2020, GE made a commitment to become carbon-neutral in its own operations by 2030, and last summer the company announced that it is going even further. It plans to be net zero by 2050 — including the Scope 3 emissions that result from the use of sold products. Upping the ante is the fact that roughly one billion people around the world lack access to reliable electricity, and overall demand for aviation, energy and healthcare — the three core industries in which GE operates — continues to grow. Meeting this demand while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require innovation, and GE is ready for the challenge, says Roger Martella, GE’s chief sustainability officer.
“At GE, we know that solving the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges across energy, health and flight starts with our people,” Martella wrote in a LinkedIn post published to celebrate Earth Day, which falls on April 22. “Our employees are innovating breakthrough technologies that will be the key to meeting global decarbonization commitments, enabling precision health and creating a smarter and more efficient future of flight.“
GE pulled together a map listing some 60 global GE projects that can help reduce carbon emissions. They involve the use of hydrogen fuel, carbon capture and sequestration, small modular nuclear reactors, sustainable aviation fuel and other technologies. Take a look at the map here.
The Long Ridge Energy Terminal, for example, the first purpose-built power plant in the United States to generate power with hydrogen fuel, could pave the way. The plant has enough capacity to supply the equivalent electricity needed to power 400,000 U.S. homes. The beating heart of the facility is GE Power’s 7HA.02 gas turbine, one of the world’s most advanced gas turbines.
Post-combustion carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration—or CCUS — can also help further decarbonization in the coming years .
In Bergen, New York, employees from GE Renewable Energy are using one of world’s largest 3D printers to form the bases of wind turbine towers from high-tech concrete. Their success could help the wind industry break through bottlenecks that today limit the size and power of onshore wind turbines and also lead to more efficient wind farm designs.
Last December, Canada’s Ontario Power Generation selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to build the first grid-scale small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) and bring it online by the end of the decade. The technology has been in the news since. In February, for example, the Tennessee Valley Authority, a utility that covers a large part of the eastern U.S., ratified a new initiative to explore advanced nuclear technology to help it reach its decarbonization goals. Its New Nuclear Program aims to provide up to $200 million to “examine advanced reactor technology options for potential future deployment” at its Clinch River site in Tennessee and possibly at other sites in the future. Specifically, TVA is looking at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s SMR design, the BWRX-300.
GE Digital is building software that can accelerate the energy transition and help utilities bring more renewables online. GE software is also helping airlines to reduce their carbon emissions, and manufacturing plants to operate more efficiently.
Speaking of aviation, in February, Airbus and CFM International — a 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines — announced that they’ll collaborate on tests of a GE aircraft engine fueled by liquid hydrogen. Around the mid-2020s, the team plans to mount the engine on a modified Airbus 380 for flight testing, with the goal of placing a hydrogen-powered passenger plane into service about 10 years later. Such a plane would produce zero CO2 emissions during flight.
Last June, CFM also announced the launch of the Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines (RISE) Program to demonstrate advanced technologies for the next generation of engines that will use 20% less fuel and produce 20% fewer CO2 emissions than the most efficient jet engines built today.
GE engines can also operate on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Last November, a long-haul flight from London to Abu Dhabi operated by Etihad Airways notched an important aviation industry milestone by reducing the trip’s carbon emissions by 72% compared with a similar flight in 2019, using existing technologies like GE Digital software and a SAF fuel blend powering GE engines. GE is also working with NASA and other partners to develop a hybrid electric engine.
But sustainability doesn’t stop with energy and aviation. GE Healthcare is helping clinicians personalize diagnoses and treatments and ensure that everyone in the world has access to healthcare.
Says Martella: “Rising to the challenge of building a world that works is part of our 130-year history at GE. This Earth Day, we’re proud to showcase the work that all GE employees are doing to usher in a greener future — a sense of purpose that unites all of us in our mission.”