An Open Letter to GE CEO Lawrence Culp


Mr. H. Lawrence Culp

Chairman & CEO

General Electric Company


CC: GE Board of Directors


Dear Mr. Culp:

As you take the helm of one of America’s most iconic companies, and one that has historically been at the forefront of innovation in energy, we wanted to call your attention to the greatest opportunity for GE to fulfill its obligations to your shareholders while leading the world on its transition to clean power and transportation.

Power markets are undergoing titanic shifts globally. We are in a race to bring electricity to the last billion people who lack it. The deployment of clean power technologies, including solar and wind, increasingly complemented by battery storage, is rapidly outpacing that of coal and gas, driven not only by more competitive economics but also the climate commitments made by nearly 200 countries in Paris three years ago. As greenhouse gas emissions become increasingly priced globally, this cost advantage will accelerate. Over $330 billion was invested in 2017 in renewable infrastructure, mainly solar and wind — over twice the amount spent on fossil power plants. Electric vehicles are also on an explosive growth trajectory, increasing demand for batteries, power electronics, and electricity from clean power sources.

You know these figures already. You also know that GE’s power business has just taken a $23 billion charge as a result of its misguided focus on turbines for gas and coal plants, technologies that are rapidly becoming uncompetitive. This was partly a consequence of GE’s ill-timed acquisition of Alstom for over $10 billion in 2015, precisely the year when the world’s governments signed the Paris Agreement, sending a strong signal that the era of reliance on fossil fuels is coming to an end. In 2017, GE further increased its footprint in hydrocarbons by acquiring a stake in the oilfield services company Baker Hughes in a multi-billion dollar transaction, an investment that has since lost value. While the $23 billion charge shows that GE recognizes the magnitude of these strategic errors in its power business, GE continues to push outdated coal and gas technologies globally. The company is actively doing so in Vietnam, Egypt, Kenya, and elsewhere.

GE has a very successful wind turbine business, with revenues of $9 billion last year. GE also has deep technical expertise in energy storage and batteries, which could place the company at the center of the electric vehicle transition. This transition will require hundreds of billions of dollars in investment and generate decades of revenues for manufacturers. To date, GE has chosen not to participate significantly in the solar market, but this industry is still young and installations are growing rapidly. New solar technologies offer a chance for GE to leapfrog into a $150 billion market. There are many other opportunities for the company to lead the clean energy transition, from fusion energy to the electrification of aircraft, where GE’s aviation business unit could well become a leader.

GE clearly has the expertise and the resources to capitalize upon these trends and to thrive in these fast growing industries. For GE to become a leader again, the company must further scale back investment in and deployment of fossil fuel technologies and focus on clean technologies.

As GE’s new CEO, you must make many difficult decisions. One of your most critical should also be one of the simplest: Will GE continue fighting to protect decelerating fossil fuel businesses or lead the world into a more profitable and sustainable future?


Ion Yadigaroglu

Partner

Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund


Tony Davis

CEO

Inherent Group


Dipender Saluja

Partner

Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund


Sir Christopher Hohn

Co-Founder

Children’s Investment Fund Foundation


Adam Wolfensohn

Co-Managing Partner

Encourage Capital


Jason Scott

Co-Managing Partner

Encourage Capital


Stuart Kinnersley

Managing Partner

Affirmative Investment Management


Cole Frates

Founder

Renewable Resources Group


Elizabeth E. McGeveran

Director of Impact Investing

McKnight Foundation


Stephen Heintz

President

Rockefeller Brothers Fund


Valerie Rockefeller

Trustee, Chair

Rockefeller Brothers Fund


Frohman Anderson

Managing Director

EverWatch Financial


Annie Chen

Chair

RS Group


Robert Litterman

Founding partner

Kepos Capital


Vincent Barnouin

CEO

Ecofin


Ramsay Ravenel

CEO

Grantham Foundation


Jigar Shah

President & Co-Founder

Generate Capital