What the heck is cleantech?


Image credit: Vortechs

Most people understand the term renewable energy, a good number of them have at least heard of sustainability. But cleantech? That’s a term that’s relatively new – and as of now, doesn’t exist in the Oxford Dictionary.

Here goes my definition.

Cleantech, short for clean technologies, is the term used to denote technologies and solutions that can potentially result in a world that is far more environmentally sustainable than the world we are living in today.

Cleantech solutions thus typically assist in minimizing or eliminating the adverse environmental effects provided by a whole host of today’s solutions, without compromising on the core benefits from the solutions. While carbon footprint reduction is one of the goals of clean technologies, it goes far beyond that. Cleantech tries to provide solutions to the key ecology-related challenges we face today – Climate Change, Pollution, Resource Scarcity, Poor Lifestyle Choices.

Some obvious examples of cleantech solutions are renewable energy solutions – solar power plants, wind turbines and the like. But cleantech solutions need not be only for clean energy. These could be for clean water, clean air, clean food…

You get the idea – any solution that makes the world’s environment & ecology better is cleantech.

Here’s a fairly comprehensive, and well-organized list of what comes under cleantech, thanks to the Cleantech Challenge, Belgium folks.


If you reflect on the list above for a moment, the magnitude of cleantech’s potential will dawn upon you. We are talking about heating, cooling, power generation, power grid, water, transportation, materials, appliances, infrastructure…the scope of the cleantech sector is massive.

Just imagine the kind of transformation we will be seeing when fundamental shifts take place in these large sectors, each of which touches our lives, careers and businesses almost every day! These changes have already started taking place, as you will read elsewhere in the Cleantech Guide.

So: Cleantech is about solutions for a clean environment. It is BIG. And it is already happening.

Some folks, who had not heard the term cleantech before they heard it from me, ask me if I coined the term.

Actually, no. Cleantech as a term has been existing for some time now.

But I don’t mind taking credit for coining the term – for one, I have made it a productive habit of taking credit when it doesn’t belong to me, and for another, no one seems to be particularly keen on being its owner. (For trivia-hunters – an investor named Nick Parker perhaps comes closest to being the legitimate coiner of this term)


What the heck is cleantech? - Cleantech Guide

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