Adding Smarts to Scale: A Balance for Future Growth

Adding Smarts to Scale: A Balance for Future Growth

November 28, 2012 at 11:11am

In the past, countries have judged their development success by looking at GDP growth. Now, there is increasing awareness that economic success only makes sense if the engines of that growth are sustainable. Clear-cutting old-growth forests will certainly contribute to GDP, but it’s clearly not sustainable. Or if a country is growing, but doing so through power generation and industrial manufacturing that is pouring carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, this too is not sustainable.

What’s needed is an indicator that includes GDP plus a sustainability factor that takes into account the impact of growth on the environment – whether positive or negative.

Implicit in this suggestion is a rather subtle point that is often lost in the sound bites and rapid-fire headlines concerning sustainability and development: growth is not inherently bad for the environment, and technologies, systems and policies that are good for the environment are not necessarily a barrier to growth.

GE is quite passionate on this point and is committed to showing how it is possible to balance development with environmental responsibility.

For example, in 2011, its ecomagination portfolio added 34 new products and services, and generated US$21 billion in revenues. Since it was established, ecomagination has booked a total sales of US$105 billion and now boasts a portfolio of 142 offerings.

Looking on a product level, you also can see what’s possible. GE’s FlexEfficiency 60 power generation portfolio gives utility companies unprecedented flexibility to deliver power quickly when it is needed and to ramp it down when it is not – balancing the grid cost-effectively. Two characteristics highlight its sustainability.

Firstly, the FlexEfficiency 60 is a gas-fired combined-cycle plant that uses its own heat to produce more electricity. Secondly, the FlexEfficiency 60’s ability to ramp up and down quickly and efficiently mean it is the ideal power turbine to help utilities manage the intermittency of many types of renewable power. That way, if clouds block the sun, the FlexEfficiency 60 system can quickly come on or increase output to ensure a steady supply of electricity to the grid. Or, if the wind has quiet, then suddenly picks up, the FlexEfficiency 60 can ramp down quickly to make room for the wind power.

Other strategic solutions include investing in energy infrastructure to promote operational efficiencies. In this way, we can confidently set a course toward higher GDP growth in a sustainable manner, thereby providing a brighter future for generations to come.

These issues and many more will be under discussion at the upcoming Arab Forum for Environment and Development annual conference on November 29-30 in Beirut. More information on the conference can be found here.

To learn more about GE’s ecomagination technologies, including the FlexEfficiency 60 products, click here.

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