Digitalisation and diversity key in reaching decarbonisation goals

Last year, GE announced its goal to achieve carbon neutrality within its own operations by 2030 after surpassing 2020 emissions reductions targets ahead of schedule
Last year, GE announced its goal to achieve carbon neutrality within its own operations by 2030 after surpassing 2020 emissions reductions targets ahead of schedule

Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Sat 25 Sep 2021, 3:15 PM

A focus on digitalisation, innovation, and diversity are going to be key in achieving decarbonisation goals, experts have said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr. Dalya Al Muthanna, president – UAE region and global chief of Strategy and Operations at GE International Markets, shared her insights on how regional governments are focused on positive climate change action and marking the transition to clean energy, while also highlighting GE’s experience and strategies to build a cleaner future.

“Our strategy lies in diversity,” she said. “GE’s innovative technology and expertise helps our customers meet their decarbonisation goals through an integrated approach to the energy transition. This array of solutions includes building up renewable power, which generates zero emissions; pursuing coal-to-gas fuel switching, which cuts emissions; leveraging high tech gas turbines that are more efficient than their predecessors and/or run on mixes containing hydrogen; and installing nuclear power, which has the advantage of generating no CO2 while providing reliable, dispatchable baseload power. Ensuring a reliable grid and digital solutions that increase efficiency is a thread that runs through everything.”

Last year, GE announced its goal to achieve carbon neutrality within its own operations by 2030 after surpassing 2020 emissions reductions targets ahead of schedule. To achieve this, GE is making operational investments to achieve energy efficiencies; reducing emissions from the grid through smart power sourcing; and using lean practices to eliminate energy waste. GE has also announced its planned exit from the new-build coal power market. Looking ahead, GE has set a further ambition to be a net zero company by 2050 — encompassing not just its own operations, but also the Scope 3 emissions from the use of sold products.

“Our commitment to sustainability is driven by our clear alignment in addressing the world’s biggest challenges: building a future of smarter and more efficient flight, developing precision healthcare that leverages digital to personalise diagnoses and treatments, and leading the energy transition,” Al Muthanna said. “The concerted efforts of the region in promoting decarbonisation inspires us to build on our track-record of promoting the energy transition.”

The electricity sector, she said, is a top priority in most conversations around sustainability in large part because electricity and heat production account for a significant percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet demand continues to grow. This means the world will require a lot of new power, quickly but that demand must be met in a sustainable way.

“As a company helping to generate one-third of the world’s electricity, GE plays a central role in meeting this demand while lowering the carbon intensity of energy and making power more resilient,” she said. “We believe that there is no one solution to the global challenge. To succeed, we are working across all elements of the energy ecosystem—renewables, natural gas and hydrogen, nuclear, grid, and digital.

Today, some 90 per cent of power transmission utilities worldwide are equipped with GE technology. In addition, more than 40 per cent of transmission and 30 per cent of distribution utilities globally are served by GE’s digital grid software solutions.

Asked what other technologies are key to renewable forms of energy, she said: “We begin with growing renewable energy as rapidly as feasible, by continuing to innovate for both onshore and offshore wind energy solutions and leveraging our offerings in battery storage and hydropower. We also look to the most efficient gas turbine technology - with strong methane controls on upstream development - as providing a reliable foundation that becomes a force multiplier for building a renewable energy infrastructure.”

She added that GE also supports the existing global nuclear fleet with innovative digital solutions and technology upgrades to increase carbon-free output, while reducing costs. GE solutions modernise the grid to increase resiliency from the growing threats of more severe weather and cyber risks, and to integrate more variable generation from renewable and increased electricity demand.

“We invest now to innovate breakthrough technologies such as advanced nuclear to further reduce emissions; green hydrogen production leveraging our wind and controls expertise; hydrogen utilisation in our gas turbines; and carbon capture and sequestration to decarbonize emissions. As utilities, power producers, grid operators, and policymakers around the world set their own decarbonisation goals for the power sector, our diverse offerings will help them achieve their targets,” Al Muthanna said.

Another key sector that has been identified as a priority for GE is the aviation sector. Global travel and trade, despite the pandemic, are forecast to drive more airplane takeoffs and landings over the next several years. IATA predicts average annual passenger growth over the next 20 years to be as high as 3.6 per cent, while air cargo could grow by four per cent a year through 2039, according to Boeing.

Advances in engine architecture, aerodynamics, and materials developed by GE and partners have resulted in today’s aircraft engines consuming 40 per cent less fuel, and emitting 40 per cent less CO2, than engines manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s. However, meeting the increase in both passenger and cargo traffic requires lower-emission aircraft engines, made possible by innovations such as open-fan architectures, hybrid-electric and electric propulsion concepts, advanced thermal management, and modifications to accommodate new fuels, such as Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) and hydrogen.

GE is working with Safran on the RISE program to develop technology that could ultimately lead to an engine that would use 20 per cent less fuel and produce 20 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than the most efficient jet engines today.

“GE’s commitment to sustainability is tangible, actionable, and encompasses the many industrial sectors we serve. By working together, we can build a world that works,” said Al Muthanna.

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