Over the next 60 seconds, GE’s energy technology, from gas and wind turbines to hydroelectric, will generate enough electricity to supply millions of households for an hour. In that same time, around 30 aircraft equipped with jet engine technology made by GE or one of its partners will take to the skies — one every two seconds. As impressive as that one minute is, behind the scenes GE engineers and scientists are working to make these advances more energy-efficient and help customers and governments around the world decarbonize.
GE’s deeply embedded sustainability priorities are highlighted in the company’s strategy and operations and detailed in the 2022 Sustainability Report, which GE released today. The third annual document looks at GE’s sustainability goals and priorities and reports progress across climate change, product safety and quality, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and more. It takes on added importance as GE prepares to separate sometime early next year into two independent public companies, GE Aerospace and GE Vernova. “It all starts with our unique ability to innovate new technology the world needs to address the most pressing sustainability challenges,” says H. Lawrence Culp, GE’s chairman and chief executive officer. “By sharpening our focus on the specific missions of each business, we gain more opportunity for GE Vernova to electrify and decarbonize the world, for GE Aerospace to invent the future of flight, and for the newly independent GE HealthCare to create a world where healthcare has no limits,” he adds.
Already, many of its technologies boast best-in-class performance and are helping to usher in a more sustainable future. For example, a single rotation of the blades on GE’s stalwart Haliade-X 13-megawatt (MW) offshore wind turbine can power a household in the United Kingdom for two days. Gas turbines, some running on a hydrogen blend to help reduce emissions, are enabling the growth of renewables, stepping in when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. Meanwhile, GE engineers are working on innovative carbon capture technology at various sites. On the aviation side, GE Aerospace is exploring the future of open-fan technologies and hybrid-electric-powered flight, as well as low-carbon sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The GE9X jet engine is the most fuel-efficient engine in its class even as it generates a record-breaking 134,300 pounds of thrust, more than enough to power the mighty Boeing 777X.
Meeting Targets, Setting Goals
GE met its 2020 emissions targets ahead of schedule, which allowed it to set a new goal to achieve carbon neutrality within its own operations (known as Scope 1 and 2 emissions) by 2030. It’s well on course: Its 2022 emissions were 28% lower than a 2019 baseline it uses to track progress.
GE has also articulated a broader ambition to be a net zero company by 2050, not only for its own operations but also for its Scope 3 emissions, those that involve its customers’ sold products. But while it’s optimistic about GE’s technologies to make progress through 2030, it knows they will not be enough to achieve 2050 net zero ambitions. That’s why both GE Aerospace and GE Vernova are investing today in the next generation of breakthrough technologies to achieve the changes that will be needed for both the power and aviation sectors. In 2022, GE invested $4.2 billion in research and development.
“I know they will succeed both for their shareholders as a business and for sustainability in innovating the solutions the world most needs to accelerate action,” says Roger Martella, GE’s chief sustainability officer.
GE Vernova: Electrification and Decarbonization
GE Vernova’s technology helps generate approximately 30% of the world’s electricity, and the business has a meaningful role to help solve the trilemma of delivering more sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy. Last year saw significant advancements in helping to electrify and decarbonize the world. For example, its Haliade-X prototype wind turbine in the Netherlands chalked off three years of operations in 2022, and GE Vernova launched its newest 3.4-MW onshore wind turbine for North America. Its LM6000 aeroderivative gas turbine operated on a hydrogen–natural gas blend during COP27 in November in Egypt. GE and Technip Energies also have begun development of a study for a carbon capture solution.
Manufacturing those grid workhorses is an energy-intensive process. But GE Vernova is taking strides toward its 2030 goal of CO2 neutrality on the shop floor through such things as buying renewable power supply for its manufacturing facilities and harnessing lean management, a system of incremental gains and marginal improvements. In 2022, lean workouts at its Gas Power business cut energy consumption from such items as lighting, HVAC, compressed air, and transport across 24 sites, resulting in a combined savings of 43 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of power.
“We see the goals of decarbonization and electrification as mutually inclusive. Any progress in advancing the energy transition and combatting climate change must also advance energy security at the same time,” says Scott Strazik, chief executive of GE Vernova. “These policy and secular industry tailwinds will unlock a massive ramp of investment and execution beginning now and increasing in the coming decade of action — and GE is uniquely positioned to work with our customers to lead this effort.”
GE Aerospace: Future of Flight
At GE Aerospace, nearly 3 billion people flew with its technology under wing in 2022, including joint venture partners. Advancements in aerodynamics, engine architecture, and materials technology for GE and CFM International product lines have resulted in today’s aircraft engines consuming 40% less fuel and emitting 40% less CO2 than engines manufactured in the 1970s and ’80s. GE Aerospace’s next-generation suite of engine technologies — including advanced architectures such as open fan, hybrid electric, and electric propulsion concepts — offer the potential to achieve at least a 20% additional improvement in fuel efficiency compared with today’s state-of-the-art single-aisle aircraft engines. In June 2021, GE Aerospace and Safran unveiled a technology development program called the CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) Program, which will demonstrate and mature a range of new, disruptive technologies for future engines that could enter service by the mid-2030s.
GE Aerospace is also supporting industry initiatives to approve and adopt 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which can be made from plant-based materials, fats, oils, and other alternative feedstocks. While all engines produced by GE Aerospace and its partners are able to run on approved blends of SAF today, the company has successfully tested a variety of engines — including the Passport, HF120, and GEnx — with 100% SAF. The fuel will be one of the mainstays of its push to net zero in 2050, having been shown to reduce overall CO2 life-cycle emissions up to 80% compared with fossil fuels. And SAF made by new approaches, such as those that convert captured CO2 and renewable hydrogen, has the potential to eliminate life-cycle CO2 emissions.
Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The report also integrates GE’s 2022 Diversity Report, which highlights the companies work in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and better aligns with how top companies are sharing their progress.
“At GE, our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) focus is rooted in the belief that diverse teams and perspectives are essential to inventing the solutions that will build a world that works,” said Brandi Thomas, chief diversity officer and vice president and chief audit executive at GE. “By working together, we can foster an inclusive culture that ensures every employee feels accepted, respected, and a sense of belonging.”
The report highlights the company’s focus and efforts on three strategic pillars — transparency, accountability, and community — to achieve long-term, sustainable DEI progress, and transparently shares GE’s representation and pay equity data.
Read the full report here.
Image credit: GE Vernova