On Tuesday this week, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order rolling back climate change regulations introduced by the Obama administration.
The very next day, General Electric (GE) chief executive Jeff Immelt hit back in no uncertain terms, with a pledge that the $123.7 billion industrial giant will take a leadership role in fighting global warming.
Commenting on the executive order in a frankly worded internal blog post to employees, subsequently reported by the Wall Street Journal and Politico, Immelt wrote: “No matter how it unfolds, it doesn’t change what GE believes.”
‘Climate change is real’
“We believe climate change is real and the science well accepted,” he continued. “Our customers, partners and countries are demanding technology that generates power while reducing emissions, improving energy efficiency and reducing cost.”
As public rebukes go, it’s a corker: the leader of one of the US’s oldest and most revered companies, cofounded by Thomas Edison no less, telling the leader of the free world that he’s got his facts wrong – both his science facts and his business facts.
And it’s not humbug and bluster – at least, not on Immelt’s part. Despite GE’s lumbering size and the vast scope of its business, which sees it make everything from jet engines to trains to wind turbines, the company is doing a formidable job of reinventing itself for the age of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
For a start, it’s building ‘smartness’ into a vast array of its products. At the same time, it’s building up the tech expertise, the algorithms, the machine learning and so on to enable customers to monitor these assets and machines and make them more energy efficient, thus reducing their carbon footprint. In many cases, customers don’t even need to be using assets or machines acquired from GE in order to monitor and manage them in Predix, GE’s cloud-based IoT platform. Just a few short years since its launch, Predix brought in revenues in the last financial year amounting to some $4 billion, up 22 percent on the previous year.
Power plant efficiencies
Energy companies have been a big contributor to Predix’s success. Late last year, GE announced a deal with US energy utility Exelon to use the software to analyze and manage over 90 power plants across 48 states, in its biggest Predix deal to date.
In similar but smaller installations, Predix has increased power plant efficiency by 3 percent and reliability by 5 percent, while cutting operating and maintenance costs by 25 percent, said Steve Bolze, chief executive of GE Power.
Either way, it’s refreshing to see a powerful business leader like Immelt taking a stand on this issue, even if it contradicts official government policy. In his blog post, Immelt added that companies, “must be resilient and learn to adjust to political volatility all over the world.”
He added: “Companies must have their own ‘foreign policy’ and create technology and solutions that address local needs for our customers and society. GE is uniquely positioned to take on environmental challenges and will continue to do so.”