GE to club battery storage, grid, wind turbine and hydro business

GE Power China

General Electric would fold its battery storage and electrical grid units into its wind turbine and hydropower business to cut costs, speed decision-making and cater to surging demand for renewable power.

The announcement, a day before GE was due to report fourth-quarter results, will eliminate a layer of management mostly based in Chicago, with minimal reduction in staff. The combined unit will have about 40,000 employees and annual revenue of about $16 billion, compared with $10.2 billion for renewable energy last year, Reuters reported.

“This strategic realignment positions GE to lead in the fast-growing renewable energy market,” GE Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Culp said in a statement.

GE’s renewables business comprises on- and offshore wind turbines, plus hydropower. GE’s units handling electrical transmission and distribution grids, battery storage and solar inverters and controls had been in GE’s Power business, which is focused on fossil fuel generation. Regional leaders for renewables will now deal directly with the company’s renewables headquarters in Paris. GE does not make solar panels.

The move is GE’s first big structural shift since October, when it said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice had expanded accounting probes to include a $22 billion writedown of goodwill at GE Power in the third quarter.

GE said in October it would separate natural gas power from coal, nuclear and grid, and named new leaders for the units.

GE’s newest gas turbines are under scrutiny after a broken blade severely damaged a unit in Texas last year, causing a two-month plant outage. The break has forced some utilities to curtail use of their new GE turbines while they await blade replacements, and GE has since said it knew about the problem after a similar blade broke in 2015.

GE’s power division took on added importance to GE’s future earnings after the company announced last year it would focus on jet engines, power plants and renewable energy and dispose of its healthcare unit and majority stake in Baker Hughes, along with other restructuring.

GE’s renewable energy unit contributed about 9 percent of the company’s industrial revenues in 2017, before the integration. Power contributed about 28 percent.