CEO of General Electric to Congress: U.S. Global Competitiveness Requires More Investment in Renewable Electricity

The President and CEO of General Electric, John Krenicki, made a stern set of remarks yesterday before the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee on the need for a clear and strong Renewable Energy Standard in the Climate & Energy Bill going through committee.  Since 2002, GE has invested over $850 million in renewable energy technology and production, primarily in the wind energy business.  Mr. Krenicki made an excellent summary remark on "What it Takes to Lead" by saying:

"The energy business is a scale driven business. Time horizons are measured in decades; capital investments in billions, and suppliers and competitors engage globally to deliver the lowest unit cost. Competitiveness and leadership in this industry require a long-term, sustained, highly committed effort. It requires massive investment, discipline, and vision that spans beyond the next quarter, the next fiscal year, or the next election cycle."

He then explains the consequences of "business as usual".  China and Europe will move ahead the U.S. in wind and other renewables capacity and domestically the U.S. will see a weaker clean energy job market that has delivered hundreds of thousands of good jobs to-date.

"Both Europe and China have publicly committed to strong, long-term renewable energy policies, with aggressive near-term goals. ... China has doubled its wind power capacity in each of the last four years, and is on track to pass the U.S. this year as the country with the largest number of wind installations in 2009." [A new Forbes report here provides more details on China's efforts]

"As I have testified, a large and relevant domestic market is key. If the wind industry moves to Europe and China, U.S. jobs that currently support the industry will evaporate. If Congress passes the weak RES targets now being contemplated, the U.S. could see up to half of our 85,000 domestic wind jobs disappear. As a country, we are contemplating climate and energy legislation with the potential to lose 42,000 clean energy jobs, in places like Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas, which have become hubs for renewable energy suppliers. Enacting no legislation will have the same result."

We agree that we need a strong Climate Bill and Renewable Energy Standard to drive new renewable energy development and innovation in America. 

Relatedly, a new study published this week by Harvard scientists shows that the global physical capacity for wind energy is drastically higher than previous estimates.  While we don't think new renewable energy projects should just go anywhere, especially if they have the potential to harm sensitive environments or endangered or threatened wildlife, we need not be concerned about tapping out the vast potential for renewable energy anytime soon.