GE Chief Exec Says Demand for Environmental Products Surging

General Electric Chairman and Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt said his "green" ecomagination unit is on track to "blow away" its 2010 sales target of $20 billion as demand for environmental products and services surges.

After two years in operation, ecomagination has a backlog of orders worth $50 billion for products like wind turbines, aircraft engines and energy conservation technology. Last year, it had sales of $12 billion.

At an event to celebrate ecomagination's second anniversary, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked Immelt to confirm the unit's target of $20 billion in sales in 2010.

"We'll blow it away," he told the governor.

GE is the parent of NBC Universal, which is the parent of CNBC.

Immelt later told Reuters: "I don't have any doubts. It's just got that sort of momentum."

Schwarzenegger, who has championed California's law to fight global warming, said he holds up GE as an example that companies should follow to profit from the demand for clean technology.

Immelt, who has worked 25 years at GE, has long argued that "green is green" -- meaning that GE is in the environmental business because it can make serious money.

But he said on Thursday that demand for green products and services exceeded expectations as awareness about global warming and energy conservation snowballed.

"Green is now becoming pervasive. It is becoming universal," Immelt said at the event at his group's Universal Studios.

"Work on energy efficiency, working on emissions reductions, conservation, clean water is simply good business. In our case, it has always been about growing the company."

Immelt unveiled 11 new products, services and technologies for ecomagination, many of them in conjunction with other big corporations and some with maverick start-ups.

One was a carbon emissions offset partnership with energy company AES Corp. to produce offsets for 10 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year by 2010.

"GE will be marketing to airlines, to rental car companies, and people have the option to offset," AES CEO Paul Hanrahan told Reuters.

"We are going to use methodologies that are tested and verified by third parties," he added. "People want to know they are getting something that is real."

With Union Pacific , GE unveiled its first green hybrid locomotive that recycles energy and stores it in on-board batteries.

In the automotive sector, GE has also invested in the battery company A123, which is working on the next generation of battery technology for hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Retailer Wal-Mart Stores , which says it is the largest private consumer of electricity in the world, said more than 500 stores will use GE light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to slash energy consumption in its refrigerated display cases.

And oil company BP said it is forming a global alliance with GE to develop 10 to 15 hydrogen power projects that will cut greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.

Wal-Mart vice president Charles Zimmerman believes the steps corporations are taking now constitute the turning point in sustainability.

"People will look back 20 years from now and see what GE, BP and Wal-Mart did at this point in time and will say 'That's when it happened,"' said Zimmerman.