Perhaps no major company has pursued opportunities in cleantech the way GE has. And perhaps no country has pursued clean energy the way smog-choked, fast-growing China has.
So it makes sense that the two have teamed up. Today, GE announced that it will form a clean coal technology joint venture in China with Shenhua, a state-owned coal mining and energy company. The joint venture company will sell industrial coal gasification technology licenses, conduct research and development and build facilities — all around what’s called integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), a technology that turns coal into gas that results in fewer emissions.
This announcement is apparently one of many timed to coincide with this week’s state visit by China’s President Hu Jintao with President Barack Obama. GE plans to announce over $2 billion in rail, locomotives and other deals in China this week, Bloomberg reports, pointing out that GE’s sales to China are growing at 20 percent a year.
“Coal plays an important role in the economies of the U.S. and China, and gasification technology allows us to use this abundant and low cost resource in a much cleaner way,” said Keith White, general manager, gasification, GE Power & Water, said in a statement.
There’s been a growing interest in clean coal. Coal is a cheap and very common way to create electricity, but also bad for the environment and air quality. While some startups have pursued 100-percent zero-emissions technologies like electric cars, solar plants and wind farms, others have tried to tackle clean energy by accepting the ubiquitous use of coal.
Khosla Ventures recently invested in clean coal startup Ciris Energy — which GE also backs. Ciris makes a technology it claims is more efficient than gasification processes. The U.S. Department of Energy previously invested $27.6 million in clean coal projects.
Last week, GE announced it spent $520 million to acquire a company that makes green data center technology, a hot segment in energy efficiency.