Tuesday, 31 May 2011

GE wants carbon price to kick in

Weekend Australian
21 May 2011, Page: 8

AUSTRALIA needs to move quickly and implement a price on carbon, and industry will follow. That's the message from global energy leviathan GE. And GE is not alone, with companies from a range of industries joining it, including AGL Energy, Linfox, Fujitsu, BP, Better Place, IKEA, Kell & Rigby, Alstom, Pottinger, ARTC and Pacific Hydro all backing a carbon price.

Speaking in late February at the clean energy lunch "Moving Australia towards a clean energy future", GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt suggested Australia's strong economic situation makes us ripe for change and ready to implement a price on carbon. "You just can't make a move that is this controversial when you have got wind in your face. You can make the move when you have got wind at your back", Immelt said.

GE's energy country executive for Australia and New Zealand, Tim Rourke, recently told The Australian that GE believes there has to be a price on carbon and an appropriate regulatory regime that will allow companies to invest in the clean energy space with some certainty. "Most companies want that certainty, and as soon as certainty is delivered, industry can move forward and there will be a faster uptake of clean energy", he says.

For GE, what sets Australia apart is its diversity of options: not only is it generously endowed with coal and gas resources, it also has excellent wind and solar resources. Hence it can deliver the ultimate energy portfolio approach. These options reflect GE's own energy philosophy. "We're technology agnostic.

We take a portfolio approach and innovate in different technologies", Rourke says. This helps the company maintain its leadership in energy innovation. GE has a SUS45 billion (S41.2bn) footprint in the energy space and it will invest $US5bn in clean energy over the next three years. Its commitment to clean energy is part of its so called Ecomagination philosophy.

According to Immelt, the initiative kicked off in 2004 and it's about investing in clean energy technology and making it profitable. "We started in 2005 by investing SUS700 million a year, we ended the decade investing SUS1.5bn a year in R&D", he says. Rourke says Australia has a great opportunity to become a global leader.

"We have plenty of options and we can exploit improving technologies, as Australians are relatively quick to embrace new technologies", he says. "We really are better placed than most countries". GE has cut its own emissions by 20% since 2005 and its renewable energy business has quadrupled in size to $US20bn in revenue.