Wednesday, June 1, 2011

General Electric’s Big bet on Natural Gas (GE)

In a 2009 post, "GE, Cleantech and Your Tax Dollars" I said:
Marc Gunther is pretty green and has been for as long as I can remember. He's also a good analytical thinker.
Although he doesn't mention it, I find it astounding that GE's CEO Jeff Immelt is an advisor to President Obama at the same time his company has $51 Billion of a subsidiary's debt guaranteed by the FDIC.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss....
At the time, and for a couple years prior, many writers in the alt/green/clean space became cheerleaders for the companies, regardless of the underlying economics. Mr Gunther avoided that trap and remains someone I'll link to. Add to that the fact that Marc was dubious of GE's pronouncements and strategy under Jeff Immelt and I thought "Hey, this guy is seeing the stuff without the rose colored glasses". Cool
Plus, I just can't picture him with pom-poms.

On the Immelt/GE B.S. I felt personally vindicated a few weeks ago: "GE's Immelt wishes he had soft-pedaled green talk" (GE).

Gunther has been much kinder toward Immelt than I've been. I don't recall him using the words corporatist, fascist or crony, or calling for the J-man's dismissal as I have done but on the other hand I couldn't get an interview with Immelt if I wanted one.

Here's Marc's latest, via AltEnergyStocks:
General Electric Co. (GE) is betting big on natural gas.

The $150-billion a year company, whose power plants generate about one-fourth of the world’s electricity, today announced a new natural-gas power plant that it says is more efficient and flexible than any other in the market.

By phone from Paris, where the announcement was made, Steve Bolze, president of GE Power & Water, told me:  “This is about transforming the industry over the next five or 10 years.”

GEEnergyLogoGE says it invested more than $500 million in the new plant development. It will be manufactured in France and sold first in Europe and Asia, and then later in the U.S.
One key selling point of the new plant is its unprecedented flexibility: It can ramp up and down rapidly, and thus be easily combined with wind and solar power plants that generate electricity intermittently.

It’s also efficient enough to work as a generator of baseload power, Bolze said. Here’s a GE webpage describing the plant and its operation.

The new GE plant—dubbed the FlexEfficiency 50–is rated at 510 megawatts and offers fuel efficiency greater than 61 percent.  Competing plants burn natural gas at efficiency rates of 57 or 58 percent, Bolze said. Each percentage point of improved efficiency saves a utility about $2 million a year, he said. Capital costs are projected to be CapitaCosts should be somewhere “north of $450 million.” he said....MORE
See also:
Siemens energy plan: Diversify (SI; GE)
What Does Big Solar Want? What Doesn't It Want?
GE’s Immelt: I thought wind was a “hula hoop”

Here's my intro for another of his posts with the appropriately skeptical view:
Beware of [President] Obama's 'Battery Gold Rush'
Please note that Marc Gunther is one of the 'greenest' writers out there. It is simply prudent to remind ourselves that investing in areas that are not self-sustaining is as much about politics as it is about balance sheet analysis. When you are backing rentseekers you have to stay attuned to the political winds or risk being blindsided by a policy change. This is why, since our second month, we have periodically quoted the first inductee into the prestigious Climateer Hall of Fame:
...Finally for investors in rent-seeking organizations there is the real risk that the politicians will change the rules. Heed the words of Sen. Simon Cameron (R&D!-Pa.):
"The honest politician is one who when he is bought, will stay bought."
Our Hero
Simon Cameron

And from 2007:
Clean energy will make Gore rich
A good follow-up piece from the co-author of the 3400 word(!) Fortune exclusive on Mr. Gore and Kleiner Perkins:
Al Gore's next act: Planet-saving VC