Clean tech: industry's new wave

September 14, 2010
by Kim Laudrum

When one door closes, another one opens. On July 28, after 90 years of production, the last car rolled off the assembly line at Windsor, Ont.’s General Motors plant. Along with a lament for the end of an era, there was a glimmer of hope. The Canadian Auto Workers Union reportedly pointed out that the GM plant is a prime candidate for redevelopment as a factory for solar energy companies, which enjoy generous government subsidies.

Welcome to the green shift in the industrial revolution.

Canadian manufacturers seeking opportunities for growth in a pokey economy would do well to consider the burgeoning clean technology industry. In 2008, global clean tech revenues were a whopping US$148.4 billion. According to the Conference Board of Canada’s report: Global Climate-Friendly Trade: Canada’s Chance to Clean Up, venture capital and private equity financing in renewable energy projects grew by almost 70% compounded annually from 2002 to 2008.

Celine Bak, partner with consulting firm Russell Mitchell Group and author of The 2010 SDTC Clean Tech Growth and Go-To-Market Report, says that on average the clean technology industry in Canada in 2010 is expected to grow an astonishing 117 per cent.

That’s on average. Some clean tech sectors in Canada are expected to grow substantially more than that. Alternative power generation, for example, is expected to see a 149% increase in 2010. Energy efficiency could grow 129% this year. Process efficiency and abatement is expected to grow 147 per cent.

Also spurring growth now is government stimulus programs worldwide amounting to US$430 billion: money that should help reduce the environmental impact of climate change, improve energy efficiency and create jobs.

On prospects for growth, Duncan Stewart, director of research for technology, media and telecom at Deloitte puts it succinctly: “Clean tech is the new internet.”

What is clean tech? The 2010 SDTC Clean Tech Growth and Go-to-Market Report defines a clean technology company as one that, based on its proprietary technology, develops and markets products or services that eliminate negative environmental impacts and address social needs. In Canada clean tech is an export-focused, innovation-based industry that offers the opportunity for capital-efficient economic development.

Watch for clean tech opportunities to boom in these areas:
• alternative power, including wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, fuel cells and tidal;
• biofuels and biochemicals, such as feedstocks and biomass projects;
• energy infrastructure management systems, storage and smart grids;<
• energy efficiency in buildings, lighting;
• process efficiency and abatement, pollution prevention and emissions control, nano and biomaterials;
• remediation of contaminated sites and Brownfield development;
• zero- and low-emissions vehicles, emission reductions for moving vehicles;
• recycling, hazardous waste elimination, energy from waste and material handling; and
• waste and wastewater purification, treatment, conservation and infrastructure.