SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — General Electric Co. said Tuesday that it will pledge $200 million to fund new research and development projects meant to create a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly power grid.
GE and four venture capital firms will solicit ideas from entrepreneurs, researchers and startups over the next 10 weeks. Awards from the competition will be announced in November.
The fund will focus on smart-grid technology designed to improve the nation's energy network from the power plant to the home. That includes using alternative energies like wind power and developing new products that cut down on energy waste in houses.
GE has made a big push into the sector, which CEO Jeffrey Immelt estimated is worth up to $20 billion but could grow to $120 billion by 2020. GE makes wind turbines, power plant equipment, home appliances, light bulbs and other energy generating and consuming products.
Immelt said GE and its partners will look for projects that could include smaller microgrids for neighborhoods, energy storage systems and cybersecurity projects.
"We want to make GE the go-to brand from both a customer and entrepreneurial standpoint," he said.
A website to collect ideas had more than 10 shortly after its launch Tuesday. They included using energy generated by subway trains to light stations and instant soda chilling devices to replace vending machines that remain on all the time.
Company shares rose 28 cents to close at $15.21.