GE surpasses Vestas and Siemens Gamesa in climate rivalry

The US company aims to make its whole renewables division CO2 neutral by the end of next year.
Photo: GE Renewable Energy
Photo: GE Renewable Energy

GE wants to scrub its whole green power unit clean. In connection with the UN Climate Summit in New York City, the US industrial group has announced its plans to make its Renewable Energy division – which includes wind, hydroelectric, energy storage and grid connections – entirely carbon-neutral by the end of 2020, GE informs in a statement.

"This is a decision that makes business sense," writes GE Renewable Energy Chief Executive Jérôme Pécresse.

"Energy efficiency, waste reduction, and renewable power sources will ultimately combine to lower the operating costs of our business. I am confident our journey to carbon neutrality will contribute eventually to the growth of our business and also to the overall sustainability efforts driven by the renewable energy industry," he adds.

For the uninitiated, it might seem completely obvious that renewable energy should be CO2-neutral. However, wind turbine manufacturing is a quite heavy industrial process and involves large quantities of chemicals, steel – and in some cases, concrete – all of which have a big carbon footprint. The same applies for turbine transport both aboard cargo ships and further on semi-trucks.

This was shown in, for instance, Vestas' 2018 sustainability report. Changes in the production setup, where a large portion of wind turbines are built in countries with limited quantities of green energy in the grid, played a role in lowering the proportion renewable power from 57 to 48 percent. Meanwhile, major activities in both new installations as the service business brought the company's CO2 emissions from 86,000 to 101,000 tons.

This, however, does not mean that Vestas has not made any progress toward its stated carbon neutrality goal. Indeed, because the Danish wind OEM has no such target, even though it in 2017 joined the climate initiative RE100, which aims for 100 percent renewable energy.

With its announcement, GE thus overtakes Siemens Gamesa, whose ambition to become CO2-neutral by 2050.

The US wind OEM wants to achieve climate neutrality via energy optimization and exclusively using green power in production. The remaining – and undisclosed – emissions will be offset through buying carbon quotas.

English Edit: Daniel Frank Christensen

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