Sustainable Systems

Sustainable Systems

GE is dedicated to bringing to market innovative solutions that provide energy and water security, create jobs, and reduce environmental impact, thereby creating sustainable infrastructure for the societies of tomorrow. We work directly with our customers on some of the world’s most complex challenges, ranging from advanced water-reuse capabilities in water-scarce regions to making a country’s energy infrastructure “smarter.” We do this because it’s the right thing to do, because we see opportunities for increased energy efficiency, and because there is a clear business opportunity in creating effective, environmentally friendly products. We invest in a range of solutions, giving us the flexibility to support the leading platforms of the future.

Through GE’s ecomagination program, initiated in 2005, we are defining the future of sustainable products in a range of fields and have been able to bring to market differentiated products that use fewer resources. Ecomagination products undergo a qualification program that thoroughly examines product inputs, design, material availability and, now, even the potential to re-manufacture a product’s parts. Ecomagination is embedded in our business metrics. It has facilitated innovation across our wide portfolio of businesses by asking a simple question: How can we provide the infrastructure that the world needs using the least amount of resources?



Robust, cost-effective water systems will continue to be one of the biggest needs of this century. Population growth, urbanization and climate change will exacerbate water scarcity and put further pressure on already-stressed natural and built systems. Improved water management through increased efficiency and conservation, multiple uses of water, and improvements in water storage will be critical to providing water for a number of industrial sectors and populations, especially those who are most vulnerable to water scarcity.

GE has focused on providing solutions that benefit our customers and society at large. Our Power & Water portfolio of ecomagination products includes purification technologies that reclaim up to 99% of wastewater for recycling, accelerate water-use reductions, and treat wastewater to provide customers with safe drinking water.

At the same time, we work to ensure that water consumption is minimized while our products are being used by our customers. From industries that need to recycle their wastewater to municipalities that need to meet demands of growing populations, we focus on helping our customers address their major water and wastewater challenges.

In addition to our internal water-management, our efforts to improve our customers’ water management include:

ZeeWeed Membrane Bioreactor Technology combines proven ultra-filtration technology with biological treatment for wastewater treatment and reuse, resulting in consistent, high-quality effluent suitable for any discharge or reuse application. Additionally, by incorporating advanced membrane-aeration technology, GE helps customers significantly reduce energy consumption.

The world’s largest Mobile Water Fleet helps customers meet water demands during emergencies through 24-hour dispatching of water-treatment equipment and services necessary to safeguard equipment and stay online.

Energy & Climate

As with water, we need to significantly improve the world’s energy infrastructure to address the needs of a growing and increasingly energy-hungry global population, and GE products are contributing to the solution. Global energy needs are expected to grow 40% in the next two decades. We must address these needs in a way that controls the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other pollutants. At the same time, we must recognize that climate change is already occurring, and that resilient infrastructure that will continue to serve effectively in a warming, increasingly unpredictable world is needed.

We work on improving energy infrastructure in two particular ways. First, we are increasing the efficiency of and reducing the GHG emissions from energy generation by reducing the downside of fossil fuels and by bringing down the costs of renewable-energy generation. Secondly, we are increasing the energy efficiency of critical infrastructure—from buildings to transportation.

Efficient energy production from natural gas provides significant sustainability advantages over many other energy sources, while also taking advantage of a secure and stable energy source whose price has decreased dramatically in recent years. GE continues to innovate in the development of natural gas turbines, recently developing a trailer-mounted aeroderivative turbine whose high efficiency and energy output are ideal for emergency power needs. We have also developed flexible-fuel turbines that can run on either natural gas or synthetic gas produced from renewable feedstocks, and, as part of our energy-technology breadth, we continue to explore carbon-capture technologies that would reduce the GHG emissions from fossil fuels.

GE also works extensively on developing renewable-energy infrastructure, from a growing fleet of wind turbines to new efforts in solar panels. Our 1.6 MW wind turbine is already cost-competitive with nonrenewable energy sources in regions with high gas prices, and we continue to develop a 10 MW wind turbine for offshore use. We are also developing our thin-film solar applications, including a recently launched cadmium telluride line of cells.

In addition to working on increasingly efficient and innovative energy products that result in lower GHG emissions, we also support the rollout of smart-grid infrastructure that supports grid stability and efficiency, and the integration of renewables in the energy mix through energy storage and software that manages energy demand.

While GE products support the efficient, low-carbon production of energy, we also help energy users manage and reduce their energy consumption. Over the past two years, for example, more than 40 GE SG Series high-efficiency Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) systems have been installed with eBoost technology, which increases efficiency from 92%–94% to 98%–99%.  

Adaptation and Resilience

Climate change will have a profound impact on our energy and water infrastructures in the coming years. The availability of water, predictability of temperatures and potential for violent weather events may all change significantly, which would affect both the demand and supply of energy and water in unpredictable ways. We will continue to develop and adapt a resilient product portfolio to meet the needs of this changing world, and work with customers to ensure that the solutions we provide will meet society’s needs both today and in the future.


For the past three years, GE has ranked #1 on Maplecroft’s Climate Innovation Index, which measures companies’ climate and energy efforts and identifies those with the greatest number of innovation programs with long-term potential. We will continue to innovate and develop new products that address the world’s need for efficient, low-carbon energy.


Transportation networks for the movement of people and goods, whether local, regional or global, will need dramatic improvements in the coming years. The OECD notes, for example, that global freight volumes could be two to four times larger by 2050, while air passenger traffic may double in the next 15 years alone. Developed economies need to upgrade aging infrastructure, while emerging economies need to expand their transportation networks to support economic growth. In all cases, solutions need to be effective at getting goods and people from origins to destinations on time and at reasonable cost. They also must be increasingly efficient in order to reduce transport’s role as a leading—and growing—producer of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other pollutants. Finally, improvements must be done safely.

GE has a vital role to play in improving transportation equipment—ranging from vehicles to locomotives to aircraft engines—as well as the transport networks that cars, trains and aircraft rely on.


While electric vehicles (EVs) offer tremendous benefits to consumers and to cities, they also pose some significant challenges. EVs could reduce U.S. oil importation by 52%, and electricity costs per mile are expected to be approximately one-quarter to one-third those of gasoline. However, grid reliability, consumer impact, public charging stations and alternative fuel options all need to be addressed to ensure safe, efficient EV integration. GE is actively working on these challenges with governments and industry partners to implement EV infrastructure.

In San Diego, for example, GE is working closely with a range of partners to help identify the elements needed for one of the largest EV infrastructures in the U.S., including working to understand vehicle-charging patterns and implementing tools to manage the loads that this activity would place on the electric system. GE is also working on improvements to motors used in EVs and hybrids, including a prototype tested in July 2012 that is 3%–5% more efficient than motors on the market today and can operate at significantly higher temperatures, requiring less cooling and ultimately reducing vehicle weight.


Rail is one of the most efficient means of moving large amounts of freight overland, and, as noted elsewhere, GE works on increasing this efficiency and reducing rail’s environmental impacts in several different ways, including locomotive efficiency, and train operations and network management. GE has unveiled the prototype for its next Evolution® Series Locomotive, which will decrease key emissions by more than 70% and save railroad customers more than $1.5 billion in infrastructure and operational costs. Additionally, GE is supporting the safety of the rail network itself through solutions like RailEdge Safety & Security, as well as through improved network scheduling and planning. These improvements ultimately result in more rapid and reliable goods shipments, which in turn enhance the attractiveness of rail as both an environmentally and economically sound means of moving goods.


The aviation industry as a whole is committed to increasing its efficiency, transitioning to carbon-neutral growth and reducing CO2 emissions by 50% from a 2005 baseline in the long term. As with rail, GE approaches this challenge from several directions, including engine technology, renewable fuels and improvements in operations. We have been a technology leader in supporting industry goals, from providing some of the most efficient and least-polluting aircraft engines to supporting the development and integration of biofuels that are fully interchangeable with fossil fuels. At the Rio+20 conference in 2012, for example, a GE-powered Azul Brazilian Airlines Embraer jet took off for a test flight using biofuel blends from plants like Jatropha; a desert shrub; wood chips; and algae. We also provide technology that improves the efficiency of operations and the overall air transport network, such as our Required Navigation Performance (RNP) technology, being implemented by AirAsia, LAN airlines, Qantas and others. RNP enables extremely efficient and precise flight paths, which reduce aircraft noise and fuel use while supporting safety initiatives.

GE understands that access to financial resources is important at all levels of business and society. At the business level, we provide financial resources that organizations use to create and implement efforts that support sustainability endeavors. GE works with governments, business and small entrepreneurial organizations to provide capital. GE also recognizes the importance of finance at the social level, particularly in the emerging markets, where experience with financial capital may not be as robust. Our local community outreach efforts facilitate this knowledge growth, which is critical to individual and overall economic success in these regions.

GE Invests in the Future of Energy

With one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and populations, India needs new, cleaner sources of power to continue fueling its economic expansion. Roughly one-third of its 1.2 billion citizens lacks access to electricity. Of the 200 gigawatts produced by the country’s energy projects in operation, most are generated by fossil fuels. In response, the Government of India has set a target to meet 20% of the country’s energy needs with renewable sources by 2020.

Rising to the challenge, the GE unit GE Energy Financial Services provided capital to build wind farms using the latest GE technology, supplying power to some Indian villages for the first time. For example, GE assembled and installed a new wind farm in Karnataka for the Bhoruka Power Corporation ahead of schedule in August 2012. The project, which has a capacity of 25.5MW of sustainable, clean energy and supports the local government’s renewable energy program, demonstrates GEs commitment to serving India’s growing energy demand through wind energy.

Opportunities for investment in the future of energy exist around the world. In October 2012, GE Energy Financial Services joined with Verve Energy and First Solar, Inc. to open the 10MW Greenough River Solar Farm near Geraldton, Western Australia. The project partners are exploring an expansion of this installation—already the largest in the country—to 40MW, demonstrating how renewable technologies can contribute to meeting energy needs.

Innovative and Accessible Healthcare

At GE, we believe health is the most valuable thing on earth. All the money in the world can’t buy it. Those who have it don’t always appreciate it. Those who have lost it will do anything to get it back.

Yet everywhere around the world, three things are common to the healthcare challenge: the need for quality care that is accessible and affordable.

GE offers the most value, for both our customers and our communities, when we use our global scale and our drive to take on seemingly intractable challenges such as meeting the global need for healthcare quality, access and affordability. In launching healthymagination in 2009, we committed to do the following by 2015:

  • Invest $6 billion to continuously develop and move forward innovations that deliver high-quality, more affordable healthcare to more people around the world.
  • Reach an additional 100 million people every year with services and technologies essential for health.
  • Partner with GE employees and their families around the world to help them live and work in the healthiest way possible.

Today, just over four years later, we are seeing the outcome of that focus on and commitment to innovation. We are building more sustainable delivery models and offering better products at more price points in more regions around the world. At the end of 2012, GE had invested over $3 billion of our planned $6 billion, and developed 65 innovations that were healthymagination-validated.

We believe that innovation—in products and partnerships—will continue to define healthymagination’s future.

We launched a $1 billion campaign to combine the unique strength of GE’s portfolio of integrated cancer technologies with collaboration between GE and its partners to accelerate innovation, with the goal of delivering better care to 10 million patients by 2020.

We believe that with this combination of technology and collaboration, we can play an important role in transforming cancer from the deadly disease it is today to a chronic condition that can be managed, slowed and even stopped.

Innovative models for delivery are just as crucial as advancing technology when it comes to bringing better health to more people at lower cost. In Cincinnati, Ohio, we convened employers, hospitals, doctors, insurers and others with the goal of building a healthier community. By driving common information and common standards of care, we’ve helped transform more than 100 physician practices into models of coordinated primary care. The results, while early, are already showing fewer ER visits, fewer admissions and fewer avoidable conditions. We are committed to lasting success and to bringing the power of unprecedented partnerships to other GE communities, starting with Louisville, Ky., and Erie, Pa.

Lastly, when it comes to health, GE wants to lead by example. HealthAhead is our effort to create a culture of health and wellness for GE employees, as part of our commitment to partner with GE employees and their families. Under the HealthAhead banner, we have certified more than 400 of our global work sites as “healthy,” and have made tools and resources available to two-thirds of our employees to improve their health.

Healthymagination uses GE’s scale to transform healthcare by incubating disruptive and scalable solutions. Healthymagination is committed to helping real people and achieving real results. We have touched over 500 million lives, to date exceeding our commitment, and we are only just getting started. We can transform how we treat disease. We can empower communities to be healthier. We can build a healthcare system that helps people live better lives. Working together, we can help cure the world. Technology, people and partnerships—this is how change happens. This is how GE Works.


Learn more about our healthymagination products.

Sustainable Growth 2012

GE’s 2012 Sustainable Growth Summary highlights progress against commitments on our social, environmental and economic impacts—or, what we call People, Planet and Economy.



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