Cleantech: Perspectives, Challenges and Possibilities
Published on: May 26, 2017

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I. WHAT IS CLEANTECH?

 

Cleantech, short for Clean Technology, is an umbrella term for technologies that help current infrastructure setups achieve the following objectives:

 

  • Decreased Cost & Energy Intensity
  • Increased Productivity & Efficiency
  • Reduced Waste, Water & Land Usage
  • Net Environmental Benefits like Reduced GHG Emissions.

 

So Cleantech can cover technologies involved in:

 

  • Renewable Energy
  • Building Energy Efficiency
  • Electric Vehicles and other GHG emission-less/low-emission modes of transportation
  • Energy Storage
  • Water Supply and Waste Water Management
  • Waste Management and recycling
  • Industrial Process Efficiency
  • And lastly, Information and Communication Technologies for Data Management, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud Storage for all of the above.

 

Examples in Cleantech can include:

 

  • Energy Efficiency: Air Conditioning Innovation by using the earth as a heat sink instead of outside atmospheric temperatures leading to far lower energy consumption, as has been done by GIBSS, a Mumbai based company.
  • Renewable Energy: Using wood-pellet based stoves/burners for commercial kitchens/micro industries to save on fossil fuel requirements, as has been done by Nishant Bioenergy from Zirkapur, Punjab.
  • Water Management: Real-time monitoring for water, waste-water and industrial effluent treatment plants using IoT based system of smart sensors, as has been done by Greenvironment, Chennai.
  • Waste-to-Energy: Converting agro-waste to gaseous fuel as has been done by Urjas Biomass Gasifiers from Mumbai.

 

 

II. PERSPECTIVES ON CLEANTECH

 

A. Evolving Economies

As people across the world grow richer and more and more join the middle-class, we are moving towards a consumption-led society with demand for products and resources increasing drastically. This has led to increase in innovation for meeting the needs with better products and lower resource requirements. Home-grown products and solutions in developing countries have started competing with developed country offerings, leading to global partnerships in joint development and market exploration between developed and developing country companies.

 

The increase in consumerism and industrialization in the developing world, referred to as Evolving Economies and the resultant impact on the environment and livelihoods has meant that climate change is no longer an environmental issue alone but has deep socio-political impacts. This bodes well for cleantech as the need for the same is being felt more and more across infrastructure sectors with social, political and economic cases being built up for the same.

 

B. Innovations

The world is pervasively digital today and knowledge sharing through social networks happens all the time. In this digitized, highly inter-connected world, new products are being developed based on niche consumer preferences and new markets are being created or tested based on the same. Also, it provides for new means of resource mobilization – financial, human and physical. This has impacted product and solution development processes at a structural level, affecting the way institutions, networks, infrastructure and capabilities are leveraged for innovative end-uses. For example, inter-industry collaborations have led to oil & gas firms using cleantech firms for treating industrial waste from hydrocarbon projects using electro-oxidation technology. Large companies have capital and access to markets for a massive roll-out of cleantech as it can contribute to core verticals being economically and environmentally productive.

 

C. Enablers

To enable a smooth transition to a cleantech economy, governments around the world have instituted targeted policies, standards and regulations with a focus on consistency. Financial instruments to lower risk and makeup for insufficient private investment (public loans, equity investments, financial guarantees) are also being doled out. Also, one-stop advisory on possibilities are being offered where possible.

 

Wherever cleantech has made inroads, the focus is intensifying towards net zero energy buildings (NZEBs) and net zero energy districts. Synergy between industry and academia is being facilitated for useful and scalable research outcomes. Also, energy storage technologies have progressed a lot in recent years, making it possible for excess energy production to be viably stored and used later.

 

D. Convergences

As more and more development happens around the world, convergences can be seen happening between essential needs – Energy, Food, Water, Industry, Transport and Waste. All of these areas are bound together by shared requirements and competition for same or similar resources. Cleantech can be viewed as being at the center of this convergence, fostering higher efficiency, higher productivity and lower environmental footprint in each of the areas.

 

From a more system level perspective, Cleantech brings together diverse aspects like Decreasing Solar Power Prices, Improved Materials for Built-environment, Electric Vehicles, Technology (IoT, Cloud Computing, Analytics etc.), Consumer Awareness, Skills Development and Community based Developments. For example, decreasing solar power prices and improvements in building materials have lead to the prospective of net zero energy buildings and available surplus electricity to power electric vehicles.  Pervasiveness of wireless technology and sensors have made possible Internet of Things and increased consumer awareness. This futher fosters skill development and community-wide bottom-up solutions.

 

Again, IoT and Cloud Computing can be viewed as central to the whole concept of promulgating cleantech development. In Energy Efficiency, it contributes to Automated Control and Advanced Metering Infrastructure. In Energy Storage, it helps in ascertaining peak demand and supply periods. In Industrial Technology, it aids in process control and automation for better industrial efficiency. For Waste & Water Management, IoT and Cloud Computing can aid in better agricultural produce management, real-time metering, improved distribution networks and in better treatment of water and waste, based on sensing technology.

 

Thus, cleantech brings together many facets of development in the 21st century with a view to improved efficiency, productivity and lowering of environmental stresses. Modern technologies like IoT and Cloud Computing accentuate the impact cleantech can have on a system and process level in those many facets of development.

 

III. COMMON CHALLENGES IN CLEANTECH MARKET DEVELOPMENT

 

#

Cleantech Challenges

1

Technology often works, but economics don't. E.g. Food-waste to Energy technologies need massive amounts of food waste (1000 ton/day) not accessible systematically

2

Massive change to infrastructure to make technology work leads to problems in scaling. Better to target established players to sell innovations and use their ability to scale

3

Lack of test-beds for rigorous testing with expensive equipment and expertise

4

Distributed Energy Generation: Needs transformation of Utility Business Models and need for Market Creation

5

Customer & System Data Sharing with Centralized Control Center

6

Difficulty Identifying Suppliers

7

Lack of skills/training

8

Integrating technology into existing business processes

9

Cost of Technology

10

Lack of Regulations

11

Lack of knowledge about Potential Technology

12

Regulatory constraints

13

Lack of implementation skills

14

Difficulty identifying suppliers

15

Integrating technology into existing business processes of established corporations

 

 

IV. SOME POSSIBILITIES TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES

 

#

CLEANTECH POSSIBILITIES

1

Finance: De-risk Cleantech adoption

2

Expand domestic market (public procurement, crowd-funding)

3

Industry consortia- pool knowledge and investments, lower cost and increase innovation

4

High-impact problems solving

5

Flexible Capital Investment (long-term and low but steady return)

6

Develop community based solutions- e.g. smart micro-grids with DC Power.

7

Develop global supply chains- integrating developed and developing markets

8

Vision and Coordination (Public, Private, People coming together).

9

Market Signals (putting a mandatory price on carbon?)

10

Prioritized and preferential treatment to critical technologies only

11

High risk/high reward tech development that may lead to breakthrough

12

International partnerships in research, development & deployment

13

Market signals, taxes, regulations, codes and standards- to foster innovation

14

Developing In-house Solutions only

15

Corporate Partnerships with startups to co-develop solutions

16

Smart Cities arising out of smart urban communities and active citizen participation (empowerment of Municipal Bodies and devolving power to city districts for customized solutions).

 
 

REFERENCES

 

  1. KPMG, British Columbia Cleantech Status Report, 2016
  2. Cascadia Capital LLC, Cleantech Today and The Future, May 2016 (accessed from Slidehsare)



About the author

Bibhash Das

Head - Client Acquisition (Smart Cities) at Get Me Experts!

India,New Delhi

I have expertise in sustainable energy for over 6 years and international experience in multiple domains and roles.

Read my other blogs


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