– includes PV for research centre

US-based general Electric Company (GE), which promotes distributed generation and wind energy technology as well as utility-scale equipment, has committed itself to expanding its work in clean energy development under a new initiative called ‘ecomagination’.

Solar PV panels at GE’s European Global Research Centre

 CEO Jeff Immelt announced the initiative to aggressively bring to market new technologies that will help customers meet pressing environmental challenges: ‘Ecomagination is GE’s commitment to address challenges such as the need for cleaner, more efficient sources of energy, reduced emissions and abundant sources of clean water. And we plan to make money doing it.’

Under Ecomagination, the company says it will:

  • double investment in R&D: GE will invest US$1.5 billion annually in research in cleaner technologies by 2010, up from $700 million in 2004
  • introduce more Ecomagination products each year
  • reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by 1% by 2012 and improve its energy efficiency by 30% by 2008, both compared with 2004.

In the spirit of the initiative, a GE Energy solar electric power systems was recently installed, by local company NEAP Natur Energienanlagen Projekte GmbH, on the roof of the company’s European Global Research Center in Garching, near Munich, Germany. The 45 kW system with 256 solar modules is being used to power test systems for the highvoltage laboratory, as well as providing power to the building and the local utility grid.

The Munich facility is part of GE Global Research, the centralized research and development organization for the company and alternative energy is one of the main focus areas of research at the centre.

The installation of GE Energy’s solar modules at the European center follows the installation of a solar energy system two years ago on the roof of GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York, where it is also used to test solar energy system designs. The Niskayuna facility has been conducting solar research since 2002.

– a global phenomenon

BP’s annual snapshot of the world energy picture revealed a worryingly strong growth in demand dominating 2004, with climbing energy – and oil in particular – prices as a consequence. While growth in demand from China was exceptional, the strength of demand growth was a global phenomenon, increasing above the 10-year trend in every region of the world.

‘The world’s overall energy consumption grew by 4.3% in 2004. In volume terms, this is the largest ever annual increase in global primary energy consumption and is the highest percentage growth since 1984. It is exceptional that this demand growth was so geographically widespread,’ said Peter Davies, BP’s Chief Economist, speaking at the launch of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2005.

While China’s economy grew by 9.5% in 2004, this was outstripped by the well documented rise in Chinese energy demand – up 15.1% over the year. Over the past three years, Chinese energy demand has risen by 65%, accounting for over half the increase in global demand over the period, says BP. China now consumes 13.6% of the world’s total energy.

Outside China, world energy demand rose by 2.8%, the fastest percentage increase since 1996 and twice the rate of the previous two years. While every region experienced above-trend growth, demand from non-OECD countries (excluding China) grew by 4.8%, roughly three times as fast as from the OECD countries. Outside China, India was the single largest source of non-OECD energy growth, with demand rising by 7.2%.

Oil consumption in 2004 – up 3.4%, or 2.5 million barrels per day (b/d) – showed the fastest rate of growth since 1978. Rising Chinese demand accounted for over a third of this increase. The high demand came despite record oil prices, which averaged $38.3 a barrel over the year – up almost 33%.

Oil output rose to meet demand, exceeding 80 million b/d for the first time in 2004.

World gas consumption grew by 3.3% in 2004, above the 10-year average of 2.6%.

Gas production rose in every region except North America. In Europe, growth in the Netherlands, Russia and Norway more than offset the UK production decline. Pipeline shipments rose by more than 10%. Shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) rose by 5.4% last year, although below the 2003 growth rate. US LNG imports continued to rise rapidly, up 29%, compared with Japanese imports that declined by 3.5% as nuclear plants returned to operation following shutdowns in 2003.

Global coal consumption rose 6.3%, with three quarters of the rise coming from China. Coal was the fastest growing fuel globally, but the slowest excluding Chinese demand. Apart from China, almost all other demand growth came from the Asia Pacific region. Coal prices grew the fastest of all traded fossil fuels in 2004, with the European marker price rising 69% over the year, driven by declines in Chinese coal exports, shortages in highgrade coal and increases in transport costs.