The New Climate Economy: Working to Deliver a Low Carbon Future
Jul 21, 2015
Paul Floren
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Recently, Pilita Clark, the Environment Correspondent at the Financial Times, wrote a very interesting article about a new report, ‘The New Climate Economy’, which I would highly recommend reading. The New Climate Economy was commissioned in 2013 by the governments of seven countries: Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Its reports are completely independent, and this latest one highlights some key recommendations which can help support economic growth while reducing carbon emissions, from increasing the uptake of renewables through to delivering a cleaner and more efficient marine sector. These are very important themes for us at GE, and we are focused on working with our customers to deliver efficient and more cost effective solutions.  

Reducing shipping’s contribution to global carbon emissions

Shipping is the preferred option for international trade, now responsible for transporting 90 percent of the world’s goods. We rely on ships for oil and gas exploration and production, naval defence, and for general transport and leisure. However, Chapter 10 of ‘The Climate Economy’ report highlights that fuel represents ‘at least 50% of a ship’s operating costs’ and ‘virtually all GHG emissions from shipping arise from the fuels used in ship engines’. This is why it’s essential that fuel efficiency, as well as the broader changes to vessel design and the technology that affects their weight and footprint, continue to improve.

Big steps are already being taken to try to improve the situation. For example, GE is working with a number of customers including Oceaneering and Harvey Gulf to deploy EPA Tier 4 emissions-compliant marine diesel engines, which reduces nitrous oxide emissions by up to 70 percent when compared to EPA Tier 2 or IMO Tier II.

Electrical variable speed propulsion, in combination with dual fuel engines, can also help maximise fuel efficiency and reduce consumption and emissions. This has become a standard on LNG carriers, for example, as it offers greater flexibility and cost optimization in operation, as well as using less power, delivering greater reliability and load carrying capacity. Similarly, this system has been applied to the U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship and we anticipate lifetime fuel savings of up to $250 million.

The controls of the ship are also crucial to reducing fuel consumption - and therefore greenhouse gas emissions. For example, solutions today can predict the future motion of a ship during dynamic positioning, automatically updating the thrust demands if the vessel is projected to move close to or outside the operator permitted area. This makes for fewer unnecessary corrections, thus reducing fuel consumption, emissions and equipment maintenance requirements.

Falling cost of renewables drive cleaner energy

Chapter 4 of the report highlights the role that the falling cost of renewable energy – in particular solar systems – can have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, as per a recent post on Inspire, according to RenewEconomy, Solar PV module costs have fallen by 75 per cent since the end of 2009 and the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar PV has fallen 50 per cent since 2010. The IEA estimates that somewhere between the year 2025 and 2030, solar will become the cheapest form of electricity. Solar technology is continually evolving to help lower the cost of energy production beyond just the panels themselves. The next step in this trend is the 1,5kVDC inverter which, by increasing the voltage level, enables higher output power capability by up to 50% - thus decreasing system losses and balance of plant costs.

As highlighted in the New Climate Economy report, rapid innovation and reduced costs of clean energy technologies will accelerate a transition to low-carbon growth and prosperity, which is why GE is focused on delivering innovative and cost effective solutions to meet these needs. 

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Paul Floren

Paul Floren is the Global Communications Leader for GE’s Power Conversion Business. Paul joined GE from Total S.A. where he held various roles including Global Head of Media Relations. Before that Paul worked in journalism, most notably writing for the International Herald Tribune.