Sunday, October 28, 2007

China & GE: A Green Team

A partnership made in heaven and cleaner air to boot. A very good thing!

China buys GE's 'green' push
General Electric's bid to sell green products to China is working, writes Fortune's Marc Gunther.
By Marc Gunther, Fortune senior writer
October 25 2007: 6:22 AM EDT

(Fortune) -- In the two years since Stefano (Steve) Bertamini moved to Shanghai to become CEO of GE China, he has a sense that the days are less smoggy and more sunny.

This is more anecdotal than scientific, but it's among the reasons that Bertamini believes that, with GE's help, China will eventually go green - clean up its air and water, become more efficient and develop less-polluting sources of energy.

"The Chinese will lead the way in these technologies," Bertamini says, "just because they will have to."

We hope he's right. By most accounts, China has already become the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (although on a per capita basis, it still lags way, way behind the United States).

Its air and water pollution problems are well-documented, most recently in this article in Foreign Affairs by Elizabeth Economy. People in the United States and the European Union can buy all the compact fluorescent light bulbs and hybrid cars they want, but without China's help, the climate crisis can't be solved.

A big part of Bertamini's job is selling environmentally-friendly products to China as part of GE's much-publicized "Ecomagination" strategy to become a leader in green technology.

In China, GE (Charts, Fortune 500) appears to be making headway: The country is now one of the company's largest foreign markets, with $5.4 billion in revenues last year, a nearly fourfold increase since 2001. GE has 12,000 employees in China, including about 1,200 who work in a research and development center in Shanghai. It has 23 joint ventures with Chinese firms; last year, just to pick one example, the company opened its first wind turbine assembly plant, in the city of Shenyang.

"We're looking at 15 percent-plus growth for the foreseeable future," Bertamini told me when we met for breakfast last week in Washington. China's booming economy is expected to grow another 11 percent this year, so GE is getting more than its share.

GE unveils 'green' card

GE has been especially successful at selling Ecomagination jet engines, locomotives and wind turbines, said Bertamini. The company has sold 84 of its GEnx engines, which use less fuel, generate fewer emissions and are quieter than typical aircraft engines.