Climate Change is Local: Translating Global Goals into Local Action

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Nabil Habayeb
Senior Vice President -GE, President & CEO, GE International Markets at GE

The ambitious goals announced and reaffirmed on Thursday at the Leaders Summit on Climate reflect the growing consensus that today, we are at a critical moment of action. Across the globe, governments, individuals, and companies – including GE – are taking tangible steps to confront the unprecedented crisis that climate change represents. That is good news.

And yet, our ability to overcome this challenge and achieve the results we so urgently need will not happen only through events such as the Leaders Summit, nor during government policy meetings, or in corporate boardrooms. While these are essential to alignment and making commitments, the action to achieve these goals will happen in the local markets.

Where the rubber hits the road

Success actually occurs “where the rubber hits the road” – in the homes, factories, industrial facilities, power plants, and office buildings where sustainable, low- and zero-carbon technologies, systems, and practices are deployed. This needs to happen in a diverse array of geographies, climates, demographics, and economies.

Some countries are densely populated; others have vast uninhabited areas. Some regions get all their water from desalination and require constant air conditioning for brutal summers; others have rivers that run full year-round, and their major concern is heating during freezing winters.

These different conditions not only impact each country’s response to climate change, but also how they approach the broader “energy trilemma.” This trilemma reflects the challenge countries face to address sustainability, while at the same time balancing their needs in two other critical areas: energy equity (often related to affordability), and energy security and reliability.

Even as the world rallied this week around the need for concerted action, the path taken by each country and community will look different. What that means, quite simply, is that effective climate action – particularly in the context of the energy trilemma – will need extensive localization. This local approach requires technology and an understanding of the local environment and market.

That is why at this moment of action, we, as GE, will build on our work with customers and governments across the globe, and support the execution of the commitments outlined to move further and faster toward a more sustainable future. We must look forward to the future with new paradigms and technologies, alongside customers, governments, and partners.

Reimagining tomorrow’s technologies

We bring proven technologies that will support customers in taking steps today, while our ongoing research and development will deliver the new technologies they require in the years ahead. Danielle Merfeld, Chief Technology Officer for GE Renewable Energy spoke during a session on innovation held on the second day of the Summit. She noted that GE spends $1.5 billion annually on energy-related R&D.

Already, our gas turbines can run on fuels that blend natural gas with hydrogen, resulting in lower CO2 emissions. Ongoing innovation means that many of our turbines can transition to run on 100 percent hydrogen. This is a major milestone, as gas turbines fueled by hydrogen will unlock an era of lower carbon dispatchable electricity, providing a necessary backstop to the intermittency of renewable power. In the renewables sector, GE has some of the largest, most efficient turbines in the world. And, our hardware and software for the electrical grid helps ensure electricity is delivered efficiently and reliably to consumers.

In aviation, we are continuing to improve engine performance for greater fuel efficiency. Longer term, we are trialing sustainable airline fuels, and we are exploring electrically driven propulsion systems that reimagine the aircraft engine.

Supporting the energy transition

Meanwhile, we are helping countries pursue their energy transitions today.

In Japan, which announced during the Summit a goal to cut emissions 46 percent by 2030, more than 550 GE wind turbines are installed or under construction.

In China, which seeks to become carbon neutral by 2060, we provide support across a number of technologies, including more than 200 gas turbines, 4.2 GW of onshore wind, 18 MW of offshore wind, 48 GW of hydro, and over 22,000 pieces of high-voltage equipment supporting efficiencies in the grid.

In India, which seeks to have 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, we have 10,000 energy engineers and technologists, and 11 manufacturing facilities to support the country’s work in wind, solar, hydro, gas, nuclear, and smart grid.

By 2050, the UAE aims to have an energy mix that includes 44 percent renewables and 38 percent natural gas. GE is providing its record-breaking H-class gas turbine technology for a power plant that is expected to be the most efficient in the Middle East utility sector. We also have provided solar technologies for what will be the largest single-site solar energy project in the world. And a week ago, Etihad Airways operated its first Ecoflight of 2021 on the airline’s signature Greenliner aircraft, which is fully offset for all operations through 2021 as part of the airline’s mission toward carbon neutral flying. Greenliner is a partnership between the airline, GE Aviation, Boeing and others.

Brazil aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent by 2030, and GE is contributing to this goal with technologies that provide about one-third of the 175 GW of installed capacity, including 40 percent of the country’s hydro capacity, 30 percent of its wind projects, and efficient and flexible gas turbines, including the H-class.

As part of its commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050, South Korea is looking to renewables and hydrogen. GE is providing its H-class gas turbines, which can burn hydrogen-blend fuels, for a number of major projects.

Partnerships – again – are the answer

GE also brings an additional essential capability important to the decarbonization journey: the ability to form partnerships and bring all the right people together around the table.

This is something GE does already, when putting together a financing package or the right project execution team for complex projects in healthcare and power generation. Or to pursue innovative solutions, such as an open Innovation Challenge in support of a lower-carbon future in Taiwan that is being organized in partnership with the Taoyuan City Government and Taiwan Power Company.

Ultimately, our success as a global community in pursuing a low-carbon future requires steps now, across the entire value chain and around the world. The commitments announced and reaffirmed last week by world leaders give us the direction and inspiration we need.

For those of us who operate in the plants, facilities and systems where decarbonization happens, our task is to translate these global and national commitments into the local implementations that will lead us to a sustainable, low-carbon future.

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