What is Clean Technology?
There is no precise definition of clean technology. Clean Edge, a Cleantech research firm, defines clean technology as a wide selection of products, procedures, and services that harness sources of renewable energy to reduce or eliminate wastes and emissions and significantly minimise the utilisation of natural resources.
Clean tech’s mainstream areas
The selected mainstream areas of clean technology consist of innovations that use, accelerate and boost the utilisation of renewable energy sources in addition to energy production from other sources including heat and sewage. Further, it contains technologies such as power sources with low emissions and technology that use waste streams to directly produce energy.
1. Energy efficiency
This class includes technologies that facilitate energy saving both in domestic and industrial processes. Saving energy has a positive effect on energy expenditures. It also helps in reducing greenhouse gas productions. Examples include energy analytics, company energy management, industrial processes advancements, pure manufacture methodologies, waste heat recovery, smart plugs, and LED lighting.
2. Built environment
Built Environment is naturally one of the main areas of focus for CleanTech as this sector influences so much of our daily lives and the environment around us. This sector of CleanTech includes technology that saves energy in the home or workplace including automation, smart devices and the IoT. Other tech is used in the design and planning stage of new home creation to reduce greenhouse gasses. With UNEP identifying that the building and construction industry accounts for one-quarter of greenhouse emissions worldwide, and another report from GABC The Global Status Report claiming it is as much as 40%, the future focus is on more sustainable and low carbon buildings. Ultimately the aim is to arrive at a point of NetZero building emissions and even Net+ where buildings do more good than harm for our environment.
3. Energy distribution and storage
This category consists of technologies that help in the supply of electricity and provide, domestic, commercial and industrial consumers with more control over how and when their power is supplied and used. Some of the areas covered include improvements in all types of energy storage and the techniques for boosting or managing the efficiency of energy transmission or storage. Examples include advanced metering and home automation, nickel-metal hydride enhancements, electrical engineering, and power distribution controls, compressed air storage tech, and flywheels.
This category includes innovative technology that boosts the ways and means of transport as well as decreasing the environmental consequence of the transport industry. The category mainly consists of startups that concentrate in the production of vehicles, motorbikes, logistics, aviation, fleets, and trains. It takes care of applications in the mobile and transportation technology that minimise air pollution, develops biofuels, improves fuel efficiency, and reduce vehicle travel. Examples include fleet management software and hardware systems, cold-ironing systems, logistics management, drivetrain conversion systems, fuel cell vehicles, biodiesel applications, and combustion designs.
5. Agriculture, water, and waste
This class contains applications that revolve around improving conservation, pollution control, and resource availability. Under Agriculture are technologies that reduce the need for resources required for food production, ensure food security and boost supply chain. Examples: food processing, sustainable plant and animal nutrient products, indoor gardening systems, soil technology, food processing and manufacture of smart drip solutions.
Under the water category, you will find technologies that ensure the supply, distribution, and treatment of drinking water. Examples: on-site water monitoring, cooling solutions, reverse osmosis, rainwater harvesting, storm, and flood water control.
Waste involves the reduction, salvaging and reuse technologies along with the novel business structures and approaches to use of materials. Examples: combined heat and power (CHP), waste cleanup and remediation.
6. Information and communications technologies (ICT)
This category covers organizations dealing with software design improvements, computing hardware, or the use of the web, IT, mobile or social apps to reduce environmental effects and consumption of resources. Examples: carpooling solutions, modeling software, cloud-based apps and services, energy reduction software, mobile and web apps to raise environmental awareness.
What are the emerging clean technologies?
According to a list published by the World Economic Forum, here are emerging clean technologies as selected by Expert Network and Global Future Councils in collaboration with Scientific American and its Board of Advisors.
1. Liquid biopsies
Liquid biopsies are a new technology in the fight against cancer. They are used as an alternative where basic tissue-based biopsies are impossible. The liquid biopsy provides a full spectrum of info compared to the tissue samples that only show a reflection of the information available in the sample. The technology enhances quick diagnosis and disease progression or resistance to treatment by identifying the circulating tumor DNA.
2. Deep learning for visual tasks
With the help of deep learning, computers have a better recognition for images than humans. Deep learning is a new trend in the Artificial Intelligence sector where computer-vision technology is increasingly being used in areas such as medical diagnostics, monitoring water levels, driving autonomous vehicles and damage assessment for insurance claims.
3. A catalyst for green vehicles
There is continued progress on zero-emission technology, the hydrogen-fed fuel cell. The progress has been obstructed by the high cost of platinum-based catalysts. However, there has been some progress in trying to reduce the reliance on this rare and expensive metal and the newest development involves the use of catalysts free of platinum.
The continuing growth of Cleantech
The Clean technology industry has undergone seismic changes. Ten years back, clean and renewable energy technologies were vindicated for not impacting the environment. Today, they are the most sensible option both environmentally and economically.
We can now look back at the industry from ten years back and highlight some of the most significant trends that have shaped the industry’s face within that period.
Wind energy (offshore and onshore)
At the end of 2007, only 93 GW worth of wind energy had been installed around the globe. According to a report by the Global Wind Energy Council, in 2008, a total of 357 megawatts of offshore wind was added which brought the cumulative total to less than 1.5 GW. This was to change within the 10 year period, as the global wind energy increased to 539 GW by the end of 2017.
The total installation costs for onshore wind projects have realized a positive trend as well. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the estimated global average cost for wind farms depreciated from $4 880 per KW in 1983 to under $2 000 per KW in 2007. This figure was to go down further to $1 477 per KW towards the end of 2017.
Considering the incredible improvements the industry has achieved the Global Wind Energy Council projects accumulative installed wind volume to rise to 840.9 GW by the end of 2022 with an average installed capacity for the next five years is projected to be 60 GW with an expected peak of 66.5 GW in 2022. The prices are expected to continue falling for both the onshore and offshore markets with increase innovation and expertise.
According to a 2017 Clean Energy Investment Trends report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s, clean energy investment up to 2008 was comparatively small. In 2007, the figure had reached $182.2 billion, which shot to $205.2 billion in 2008 before it skyrocketed to $360.3 billion in 2015. In 2017, the figure picked up to around $333.5 billion.
While clean energy investment levels have been impressive, everything is not as is expected to be. BNEF’s Editor in Jan 2017 predicted that 2018 would still see the clean energy investment at $330, but that is not what happened. During the first quarter, clean energy investment went down by 10%. According to a report in 2018, an extra $460 billion is required each year for the next 12 years if global warming is to be limited to 1.5⁰C.
About the Australian Cleantech sector
The future of Australian Cleantech sector largely depends on its ability to link with decision makers and investors to bring about measurable influence and mobilise its own growth.
The aim of the National Clean Technologies Conference is to highlight all Cleantech growth areas including waste, water, energy, transport and built environment.
The conference will also attract stakeholders from across the Cleantech industry to initiate growth, revolution, and investment.