With a shareholder meeting on April 22 in Orlando and a potentially hostile crowd there ready to ask plenty of tough questions about dividend cuts, a drop in net income and the company’s sluggish stock price, it probably wasn’t any accident that news reports started appearing during the past week about the growth potential of new green initiatives underway at GE.
GE has been a leader in the manufacture of energy-efficient electrical equipment decades before anyone started calling its lighting and control products “green.” But the company will have to depend even more for future sales and profits on a portfolio of energy-efficient products that now also includes wind turbines and metering for the smart utility grid because of the struggles of its massive financial unit. At this week’s shareholder meeting, an AP report said CEO Jeff Immelt told shareholders that GE has positioned itself for an economic recovery, with a new focus on products such as windmills and other clean energy equipment that could capture some of what GE estimates is $2 trillion worth of government stimulus spending worldwide.
The company recently announced that it will play a big role in the $200 million Energy Smart Miami project, along with Florida Power & Light (FP&L) and Cisco Systems. Energy Smart Miami is expected to help Miami-Dade County consumers save money by giving them more choices in how they consume and conserve electrical power, and its supporters say it has the potential to be the most extensive Smart Grid implementation in the country. The backbone of Energy Smart Miami will be the deployment of more than 1 million advanced wireless “smart meters” to every home and most businesses in Miami-Dade County. These meters will use an Internet-based protocol to give FPL customers more information and control over their electricity usage while also providing FPL with information that will enhance system efficiency and reliability. GE will supply key components of the project, which include the smart meters and may extend to advanced applications and smarter control systems.
Another division in the company also announced some big growth plans for the green market this week. According to a Reuters report, in 2010, GE Wind expects to overtake Denmark’s Vestas as the world’s biggest wind power equipment producer. GE Wind expects to return to double-digit growth rates in 2010, after being flat in 2009.