GE CEO Immelt: Government has to play a ˜key role in clean energy investments

This is a Wonk Room repost.  WR has been reporting from the Clinton Global Initiative conference this week.

immeltEarlier this year, the American Society for Civil Engineers roundly panned America’s disintegrating infrastructure, giving it an overall D grade and estimating that “it would take a $2.2 trillion investment “¦ over the next five years to bring it into a state of good repair.” One of today’s discussions at the Clinton Global Initiative focused on how to develop infrastructure in both the U.S. and the rest of the world, and the role that government plays in such development.

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt “” who has been critical of the business community for investing too much money in preserving America’s status quo “” noted that successful infrastructure improvements, particularly in creating the capacity for clean energy, means coordinating government standards with private investment:

The thing about infrastructure is that it’s a systems problem, and by a systems problem I mean you have to align technology, government policy, capital markets, execution skills “” all have to be aligned to make it happen. And the government is a central part in how that goes, both in terms of the U.S., but also in terms of any country in the world.

Energy in this country, if we want to have a clean energy future, the investments are basically 40, 30, 20 year investments”¦I think, one of the key roles the government has to play is what are the standards? How should the capital markets work? How do you risk-share some of the key technology evolutions? And so, if you want to have effective infrastructure, you really do have to have a good public-private partnership.

Listen here:

In Immelt’s world, the government would set the standards, and then let the private sector loose to achieve them, or, as in China, lay out five-year plans for infrastructure development. This is a distinctly different take from most of the rest of the business community, which recoils from standards, aided by conservatives who claim that if we just “let the free market work,” everything will take care of itself.

Of course, Immelt must see a way for GE to come out ahead under such a policy, but that doesn’t mean that his viewpoint doesn’t make sense. Smart standards, regulation, and a cohesive policy from the government would make energy investment “” and infrastructure development as a whole “” much less scattershot and much more effective.

8 Responses to GE CEO Immelt: Government has to play a ˜key role in clean energy investments

  1. Ian Bjorn says:

    They changed the name from Enron wind to GE wind. Same business plan.

  2. Leif says:

    The same old problem, where does the money come from? It appears to me we need a reform in the way capitalism works, in that there must be a willingness of corporations to refrain from shipping good paying jobs over seas and paying exorbitant wages to CEOs who then spend a good part of there efforts in hiding said “earnings” in tax shelters worse. On the other hand the wage earner who is strapped with day to day living costs has to fight tooth and nail to protect their earnings to meet obligations of health care, home expenses, fuel costs to get to work,etc. Is it any wonder that there is a tax revolt out there? We appear powerless to fight the corporations of the world, the only thing left is the Government. The solution of the right to let business run the show will only work for the few who are lucky enough or smart enough to be at the top. All the rest will perish. It seams to me that we will only survive as a species when we learn to make capitalism work for the well being of humanity as a whole and not to make a privileged class of supper rich and all the rest groveling for scraps in shanty towns. It don’t look too hopeful…

  3. Seems to me that one key role of government, not mentioned here, is to designate corridors as rights of way for a smart grid, and to come up with methods of allowing speedy development of transmission lines in those corridors. Otherwise, there will be long delays.

  4. David B. Benson says:

    Here is an alternative, distributed and retail, worthy of considering right away:

    Biomass Task Force Report

  5. Mike#22 says:

    GE to introduce Heat Pump Hot Water Heater this fall.

    Each unit will save approx. 2500 kwhs/year over a conventional electric domestic hot water heater. Federal tax credit, 30%, check your state and utility for further credit. Even without the credit, the simple payback is around 5 years @ 10 cents/kwh.

    If half of the 60 million US households with electric DHW switched over, that is 150 billion kwhs, or about 4% of total US electrical–enough negawatts to close one in twelve coal plants. Plus the unit comes wired for demand response.

    Green jobs at the plant were these are made, green installer jobs, simple payback of 5 years, demand respone ready, and close down a lot of coal mines and coal plants.

    Thanks due to all the researchers and engineers who have been pushing for this product. Also, there are other major manufacturers bringing this product to market. Check Energy Star.

    Can we stop agonizing over how hard phasing coal out is going to be and just do it?

  6. Mike#22 says:

    Correction, the 150 billion kwhs would be saved if all 60 million households switched.

  7. James Newberry says:

    We need new industrialization policies that eliminate the use of mined materials as “energy resources.” Our current policy of exploitation of uranium fission and hydrocarbon combustion is destroying our national and global public (and fiscal) health in so many overwhelming ways. Further, our measurements of efficiencies are in a dark age, ie. true second law (thermodynamic) energy efficiencies for fossil fuels are about zero.

    If we aggressively change course from contaminating the public and the ecosphere via an Ecological/Technological Revolution based on “clean energy” and the clean governance and finance required, we may just prevent a global ice meltdown that will make economic meltdown look like a walk in the park. Benefits for Healthcare, Security, Economy, Jobs and more.

    First step: rapidly phaseout the perverse government subsidies that increase exactly what we don’t want to do. We have had our federal financial foot pressed on the accelerator of ecosphere meltdown for decades and are now attempting to brake without releasing the accelerator. All energy supply investment should be non-fossil and non-fissile. A revolution you might say? Very good, that is the principle the USA was founded on.

  8. Stephan says:

    I do totally agree on this. The government has to set the playing rules in the game, as they have always done, and therefore Copenhagen is a very important factor in determining these roles.

    For more info on the environment, have a look at this Green News.