GE Energy Financial Services recently announced it has exceeded $10 billion in renewable energy investment commitments worldwide to become one of the industry’s leading investors. The projects generate twice the electricity consumed in Los Angeles annually, avoid greenhouse gases equivalent to the annual car emissions in Massachusetts, and create an estimated 10,000 US jobs.
GE Energy Financial Services expects it will continue to invest more than $1 billion annually in wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects, its fastest-growing energy sector and one that often facilitates sales of GE’s energy technology.
GE Energy Financial Services’ renewable energy projects can generate 17 gigawatts of electricity, enough for an estimated 3.7 million homes — more than twice what Los Angeles homes consume. Of the more than $10 billion in cumulative renewable energy equity and debt investment commitments, $8 billion are in more than 12 gigawatts of wind farms and $1.7 billion are in one gigawatt of solar power installations, with the balance in other renewables. Geographically diversified, the projects span 16 countries and 28 states, helping 18 states meet their Renewable Portfolio Standards.
The renewable energy projects avoid the annual emission of about 26 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of 5.6 million cars, according to US Environmental Protection Agency methodology. The projects create an estimated 10,000 direct US jobs, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory and GE modeling.
GE Energy Financial Services’ capital is working in southern California to complete the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar power project, which uses GE power inverters and is already producing more than 375 megawatts. It’s also building wind farms in Ireland, Nebraska, Illinois and Texas, the No. 1 US state in installed wind power. The wind farms under construction or completed use more than 4,400 GE turbines, underscoring GE’s ability to provide both capital and technology.
Since forming its renewable energy unit in 2006 with Kevin Walsh as its head, GE Energy Financial Services has invested an average of $1 billion a year. “Despite major changes in regulations, government incentives and energy markets,” said Walsh, “we have become one of the world’s largest renewable energy investors. Critical to our continued growth and that of the renewable energy industry is the need for long-term, predictable government policies. When such policies are in place, the industry has responded with more investment, lower costs and improved technology.”
GE Energy Financial Services’ growth tracks industry-wide expansion. Electricity generation from renewable sources grew from 8.3 percent of total US power load in 2007 to 12.9 percent in 2013, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates. Clean energy generation sources and energy efficiency improvements have driven US greenhouse gas emissions down nearly 10 percent since 2005, reversing decades of increases, the Bloomberg affiliate says. Since 1997, it says, 94 percent of new US power capacity has come from natural gas or renewable energy. Cumulative installed renewable electricity capacity more than doubled from 2008-2013, to 192 gigawatts.