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GE CEO Immelt's tenure so far marked by cleantech bets

GE CEO Immelt's tenure so far marked by cleantech bets

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GE CEO Jeff Immelt has been on the job for a decade and there have been many cleantech bets along the way.

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has been on the job a decade and his challenges are numerous, but what has been overlooked is his bet on cleantech and how it can mark the company's next 10 years.

The Wall Street Journal handicaps Immelt's first decade on the job. The picture is decidedly mixed. GE Capital is continually questioned over whether it should be part of the conglomerate. On the other hand, GE has expanded into emerging markets, shed NBC Universal and pulled off a series of acquisitions to fuel growth in the future.

Then again, GE shares are 61 percent lower than when Immelt took over just four days before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

Last week, GE wrapped up its $3.2 billion acquisition of Converteam, which is a play on wind and solar energy as well as an oil and gas equipment maker.

But the Converteam purchase was just the latest move into clean tech. The upshot for GE is that its energy business accounted for 19 percent of sales in 2001 and should be north of 30 percent in 2011. Here's a look at a few of the GE moves over the last decade. To wit:

  • GE bought Enron Wind from the bankrupt carcass of Enron in 2002.
  • In 2004, GE acquired Astropower to enter the solar industry.
  • US Ionics was added to GE via acquisition in 2005. That move bolstered GE's water business.
  • In 2007, GE introduced the VIO high-power white LED. Also in 2007, GE unveiled a hybrid locomotive.
  • Virgin Atlantic used biofuel in 2008 to fly via GE airplane engines.
  • In 2010, GE rolled out the energy smartLED bulb, which is designed to replace old incandescent bulbs. Also in 2010, GE unveiled the WattStation for charging electric vehicles. GE also formed a partnership with Silicon Valley to fund clean energy startups.

GE's clean tech push really came together in the latter part of the decade. It remains to be seen if these clean tech bets fuel growth for the decades ahead, but Immelt hasn't been shy about taking his shots. Immelt's next decade at GE may be judged on how the company navigated a changing energy ecosystem.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure