During a presentation to shareholders in New York this week, General Electric CEO John Flannery said he plans to sell off the energy-focused startup Current in the next year or two, Boston Business Journal reported. Since launching in 2015, Current has collaborated on major energy efficiency projects with companies that include Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase.
Current concentrates on making commercial buildings more energy efficient by combining solar and lighting technologies with networked sensors and software. In the lighting realm, the company’s Lumination LED luminaires work with smart building controls, their digitally-controllable Albeo high and low bay luminaires are modular and scalable for industrial spaces, and the Evolve outdoor LED fixtures have a wireless control system.
Just a few weeks ago, the startup celebrated the shipment of its one millionth Albeo LED fixture. “GM has replaced 80,000 traditional lighting fixtures with Current’s Albeo LED fixtures at 45 sites around the world since 2016,” a press release about the milestone said. “In addition to reducing energy expenses by 60%, the sensor-enabled fixtures collect data on temperature, humidity, and movement.”
Besides lighting and controls, Current also builds solar projects. In August, Home Depot tapped the startup to handle the majority of the 50 mini solar farm installations planned for store rooftops. “Each store will reduce electricity grid demand by an estimated 30 to 35% annually,” Current said in an announcement at the time.
In addition, Current also provides the AllSites multisite controls and energy management system, which the company says can cut lighting bills by 70%. JPMorgan Chase is using that cloud-based energy management system for a massive lighting retrofit across 4,500 bank branches. The collaboration between the two companies on lighting retrofits, first announced in 2016, is considered to be the largest single-order LED installation in the world. Recently JPMorgan Chase started upgrading branches in Detroit with Current’s help.
It’s unclear exactly when or how Current will be sold. “Over the past two years, Current has generated significant growth in delivering new energy efficiency and digital productivity outcomes for its customers,” a GE spokesperson said, according to the Longmont Times-Call. “GE’s goal is to find a buyer that can help Current continue progressing on its growth journey.”
GE shares have dropped 37% this year, raising questions among investors. Besides putting Current on the chopping block, Flannery said during the third-quarter earnings call that he wants to sell off the company’s transportation and industrial solutions divisions as well, Boston Business Journal’s Kelly J. O’Brien reported.
Bloomberg Gadfly columnist Brooke Sutherland called the prospect of GE selling its transportation, lighting, and industrial-solutions operations good news, and pointed to the $2.6 billion sale of the company’s industrial-solutions business to ABB Ltd. earlier this year.
But she wrote that piecemeal divestitures won’t be enough. “Flannery missed an opportunity to dramatically remake GE through a full-scale breakup, and at best, that positions the company for a tough grind through years of weak earnings.”
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