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Summary:

The surge of venture investments in cleantech has been surprising some industry watchers — the total figure climbed 80 percent in the third quarter to $844 million, according to a recent MoneyTree report. But one look at GE’s investments in clean technology R&D, and suddenly those […]

The surge of venture investments in cleantech has been surprising some industry watchers — the total figure climbed 80 percent in the third quarter to $844 million, according to a recent MoneyTree report. But one look at GE’s investments in clean technology R&D, and suddenly those venture numbers don’t seem all that staggering.

GE said this morning that it will pour more than $1 billion into clean technology R&D for 2007, and reiterated a pledge to invest $1.5 billion annually on ecomagination R&D by 2010. Ecomagination is the term GE uses to describe its eco products division, which now has 45 energy and environment-related products and services, including energy-efficient lighting, hybrid vehicle systems, and wind and solar technology.

At the company’s global research center in New York, Lorraine Bolsinger, vice president of ecomagination, made an offhand comparison to venture’s cleantech efforts (via CNET):

“While I’m delighted to hear about all the venture capitalists and entrepreneurs (in clean tech), we have our own clean tech fund going on right here.”

GE’s ecomagination division is a little over two years old, and while the move is good for generating a seemingly endless amount of green-friendly PR, it’s also starting to generate significant revenue. Annual ecomagination revenues were $12 billion for 2006, and the company’s goal is to reach $20 billion in sales by 2010.

Bolsinger also noted in the presentation that the company’s revenue from ecomagination products is actually growing faster than GE’s revenue overall — at 12 percent a year vs. 8 percent for the whole company.

As part of the company’s $1 billion cleantech R&D investment, GE also said today that it will spend $6.8 million on 2 plug-in hybrid vehicle projects with the Department of Energy: one involves research into more efficient hybrid drivetrain motors; the other, work on high temperature, high energy density capacitors.

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