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GE to boost renewables budget

General Electric Co.'s energy investment business annuced increasing investment in renewable energy to $6 billion by 2010.

Alex Urquhart, president and chief executive of GE Energy Financial Services, cited record-high oil prices, an increased focus on environmental protection and improved technology for boosting interest in wind, solar, biomass, hydro and geothermal power. “Thanks to our strong customer relationships, our expertise, GE's technical capabilities, high fossil fuel prices and popular support for cleaner power, renewable energy has become our fastest-growing business,” Urquhart said Monday.

In addition, large price spikes fade with the elimination of fossil fuels as an energy source, said Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services. “There are no fuel costs with wind and solar, no volatility,” he said.

GE Energy Financial Services, based in Stamford, set a $4 billion target last May, but recently crossed the $3 billion threshold, Urquhart said. “We looked at the total activities and how many of these projects are coming along. We realized $4 billion, we'd be there much sooner than we thought,” he said.

The most active investment in renewable energy for GE Energy Financial Services is wind, representing about two-thirds of its portfolio, Urquhart said. The company's also invested in landfill gas-to-energy projects, solar power projects in California, a solar power plant in Portugal and other deals.

GE Energy Financial Services also said Monday it's investing in wind farm projects owned by Horizon Wind Energy LLC, a Houston-based developer that is a subsidiary of Energias de Portugal SA. The wind farms are in Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas.The four wind farms will annually produce enough electricity to power more than 180,200 average homes in the United States and will avoid nearly 1.4 million tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions, compared with equivalent fossil fuel generation, GE Energy Financial Services said.

With the Horizon deal, GE Energy Financial Services has invested or committed to invest equity in 85 wind farms and increased its global wind equity holdings to more than 3,600 megawatts of generating capacity. (The Canadian Press)