GE wraps solar and storage into Current developing energy unit

US industrial group GE is wrapping a clutch of its fast-developing energy-related operations – including solar and storage – into a new unit called Current that looks set to target growing demand for highly efficient, more distributed power networks.

GE said the new unit will start life as a $1bn a year business, offering a suite of products and services to customers in the commercial and industrial (C&I), municipal and utility sectors.

Current brings together GE’s interests in energy-efficiency, solar, storage, LED lighting and electric vehicles, marrying them to its Predix industrial software platform to provide highly-customised systems that the company claims could shave up to 20% off energy bills for user such as universities or shopping malls.

Start-up customers for Current include Walgreens, Simon Property Group, Hilton Worldwide, JPMorgan Chase, Hospital Corporation of America and Intel, said GE.

The new division, to be based in Boston and led by existing GE Lighting chief Maryrose Sylvester, will also target grids as they gear up to become more efficient conduits for distributed power.

GE has been accelerating its drive into energy storage, as well as renewing its interest in solar after an in-out foray into the sector at the beginning of this decade.

Beth Comstock, the GE vice chair overseeing the new unit, said of Current: “Commercial enterprises can’t afford complexity and inefficiency in energy solutions if they are to remain competitive. They are looking for ‘future proofed’ solutions.

“From the socket to the grid, we understand how the electrons flow and have the unique position to optimise energy regardless of the scenario or customer.”

In a similar move, US power giant NRG Energy recently announced plans to spin off its consumer-focused solar and electric vehicle charging operations into a unit called GreenCo.

The creation of Current comes as GE prepares to turbocharge its utility-scale power generation business by completing the acquisition of Alstom Power, including its onshore wind unit, as part of a refocusing around high-tech industrial operations.