GE Current CEO Talks about Large Scale Commercial Lighting

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Having headed GE Current for eight months, Maryose Sylvester shares some insights about the challenges she faces in an interview with 5 On Your Side.

Current’s main vision is to help commercial sector including banks, hotels, department stores and other big businesses turn green. The GE start-up advises enterprises on energy-saving technology including LED bulbs, produce, and store energy on-site and harness data to improve performance energy management.

 “What could go wrong is we can’t get that payback fast enough,” said Sylvester, who formerly headed the company’s LED lighting business before Current launched in October.

Sylvester is optimistic that Current will succeed, due to GE’s veteran experience in energy businesses, including LED lighting, solar power, storage and electric vehicles. Its more recent investments is a cloud-based program for industrial Internet applications.

Current signed it first major deal with JPMorgan Chase in February to install LED lights in 5,000 bank branches across the U.S. According to GE, the deal is one of the world’s largest single-order LED installation that would cut the facilities lighting consumption by half.

 “We’ll have some other customer announcements in the next 60 days,” Sylvester said in an interview.

Current’s market position as a concept of energy as a service rather than a product is also gaining appeal, the technology provides consumers with options to substantially cut energy consumption and harness power, while simplifying consumption patterns to make it easier to monitor and adjust through computer networking.

Other commercial and industrial lighting clients including JPMorgan, Walgreens, Hilton Worldwide and Hospital Corporation of America, are running pilot programs using Current’s expertise.

Currents lineup of LEDs and other devices can conserve energy compared to traditional technologies, such as fluorescent lights, but also come equipped with sensors that can monitor building temperature, occupancy and other activities.

The company is trying to integrate all the data collected from various sensor-equipped devices into a cloud-based computer network that automatically controls lighting and temperature, depending on activities in the building.

In addition, the GE setup also offers on-site generation, such as solar and combined heat and power, as well as energy storage, electric-vehicle charging and conservation programs to cut energy costs and carbon emissions.

The customer can recover its initial investment within two to four years, said Sylvester.

 “We’re trying to get this right. We’re going to test a lot of things. We’re going to do some things tremendously successfully, and we’re going to fail at some things. And when we fail, we want to fail fast, learn from it and get it right the next time,” she said.

Current started with an ambitious beginning in the fall, with US $1 billion in revenue from the combination of LED lighting, solar power, storage and electric-vehicle businesses, and is targeting a revenue goal of US $5 billion by 2020.

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