GE has reduced its greenhouse (GHG) emissions by 22 percent and energy use by 16 percent compared to 2004 levels, according to the company’s sixth annual Citizenship Report (PDF). GE also reduced its GHG emissions and energy intensity by 39 percent and 34 percent, respectively, compared to 2004 levels.
Other environmental highlights for 2009 include a drop in wastewater exceedances by 48 percent, a reduction of spills and releases by 15 percent, and 82 percent lower air exceedances. Water use dropped 30 percent compared to 2006 levels.
In 2009, GE’s operational GHG emissions were 5.79 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents. Although the company exceeded its 2008 goal of 30 percent GHG emissions intensity (measured as CO2 equivalent emissions/revenue in millions of U.S. dollars), the company continues to track this metric.
GE’s GHG emissions intensity reduction in 2009 was slightly lower than the 41 percent achieved as of 2008, which the company attributes to lower 2009 revenue.
The company’s energy use was 51.9 million MMBTU, a 16 percent reduction from the 2004 baseline year, which the company attributes to its energy-efficiency efforts and economic conditions in 2009.
GE’s energy intensity (measured as MM BTU/revenue in millions of U.S. dollars) in 2009 decreased slightly from the 37 percent reported in 2008.
In 2009, GE recognized 50 of its sites as eCO2 award winners. These sites reduced GHG emissions by at least five percent versus the baseline year independent of changes in production levels. Combined, these sites reduced GHG emissions by 174,000 MT CO2.
Approximately 85 percent of GE’s operational GHG emissions are CO2 from combustion of fuels and process or fugitive emissions from its facilities (direct emissions) and the generation of purchased electricity, steam, hot water and chilled water at third-party facilities (indirect emissions). Natural gas accounts for almost 83 percent of the fuels directly used at GE’s operational facilities. GE did not combust any coal at operational facilities in 2009.
Approximately 13 percent of GE’s GHG emissions are HFC-134a and HFC-245fa, which are produced during insulation foam-blowing operations at its refrigerator manufacturing plants. GE says the foam is used to improve the energy efficiency of it refrigerators and HFCs are substitute foam-blowing agents that the company uses to replace an ozone depleting substance that is being phased out under the U.S. Clean Air Act.
GE’s commitments for 2010 include a 25 percent reduction in environmental exceedances and spills, a 50 percent improvement in energy intensity by 2015 (2004 baseline), and a 25 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2015 (2004 baseline).
The company is also working towards its long-term water use reduction goal to cut fresh water use 25 percent by 2015, using 2006 as a baseline. As part of its water reduction efforts, GE has installed ultrasonic flow meters at select sites, established a strategic road map to understand opportunities for saving water, and initiated several major water-saving projects.
GE also continues to grow its ecomagination product portfolio. GE’s revenues from its Ecomagination products reached $18 billion last year from the sale of more than 90 products, up 6 percent from $17 billion in revenue from more than 80 products in 2008.
Earlier this month, GE and partner companies launched a $200 million open innovation challenge that seeks new ideas from technologists, entrepreneurs and start-ups to create a cleaner and more efficient electric grid.
GE also dedicated a $45 million Renewable Energy Global Headquarters in Schenectady, N.Y., which meets the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standards.
Despite the company’s ‘green’ initiatives over the past several years, GE lost a legal battle with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit its Superfund liabilities related to the clean-up of pollution in the Hudson River, which was polluted by the dumping of polychlorinated biphenyls into the river from the end of World War II until 1977.
According to the report, GE completed Phase I dredging of the Hudson River, meeting its agreement with the government, and is working with the EPA to improve Phase II of the dredging project.