An enabler is something which propels the clean technology industry to achieve something. To enable means to provide somebody with the resources, authority, or opportunity to do something. The following cleantech enablers are discussed here – R&D/ Sciences, Law and Legal, Green Education, Green Jobs, Carbon Credits, Renewable Energy Certificate System and Energy Audits.
Clean energy encompasses technologies at all stages of development. Some, such as wind power or hydro-electric, are mature and well-researched. Others, ranging from carbon capture and sequestration to the far reaches of nanotechnology, remain in their infancy with their potential as yet largely unproven. Research and development has a vital role to play in finding new clean technologies, as well as improving existing ones.
R&D in this area has grown strongly in recent years – in 2006, according to analysts New Energy Finance, it increased by 25% from $13bn to $16.3bn. Although this year-on-year growth is impressive, it is still a fraction of the funds invested in conventional energy R&D. Data from New Energy Finance says the $10.5bn that companies invested in clean energy R&D in 2007 was only 2% of overall energy R&D.
In addition, the low-carbon sector is up against some pretty entrenched government subsidies for more polluting forms of energy generation. Investors’ group London Accord says: “Financial support for renewables is a fraction of the funds supporting conventional generation: in Europe €23.9bn is spent annually on incentives for fossil fuels and nuclear, compared to €5.3bn on renewables.”
The need for R&D in the sector is enormous, but there is not enough funding and not enough people working in the field. Most countries need to grasp the competitive advantage aspects of R&D in clean energy.
GE famously launched its Ecomagination programme in 2005 and has pledged to invest $1.5bn a year in clean technology R&D by 2010. It hopes to have $20bn in sales from the Ecomagination initiative, up from $12bn in 2006. It has so far invested more than $2.5bn in R&D under the programme, in everything from wind turbines to more efficient aviation engines. Its rival Siemens holds 30,000 patents “for environment and climate-relevant solutions” and invests more than €2bn a year in R&D in this field.
Meanwhile, BP is focusing on a range of clean energy projects, in biofuels, hydrogen, solar and wind. Its biggest R&D investment was a $500m investment in the Energy and Biosciences Institute at Berkeley University in California, which is using the cash to find ways of producing second-generation biofuels (fuel from non-food biomass); converting heavy hydrocarbons to clean fuels; improved recovery from existing oil and gas reservoirs; and carbon sequestration.
Lack of funds for R&D is not the problem, however it is difficult to separate spending on R&D from other expenditure such as product development. There is a lot of money going into this area now. The key is to bring down the cost of some of these technologies.
There is an obvious demand for biofuels. By 2010, 5.75% of the EU’s transport fuel has to come from biofuels, rising to 10% by 2020. Meanwhile, by 2022, 36 billion gallons of the US’s expected 160 billion gallons of petrol demand have to come from biofuels. Some 15 billion gallons are expected to come from currently available corn-based ethanol, with the rest being made up of second-generation biofuels such as cellulosic and ethanol.
States of inertia
In some fields, such as carbon capture and sequestration, governments have to take a lead. There is just no framework for CCS at the moment. There is no question that governments have to pay for CCS. Companies are not going to spend money when there is no possibility of a return. As an investment proposition, CCS does not make sense at the moment because the technology is unproven.
Other areas where research must be focused include second-generation biofuels, fuel cells, hydrogen, marine and next-generation solar technologies such as thin-film, organic and solar thermal. Money should also be going to more prosaic endeavours such as improving the efficiency of fossil fuel generation; nuclear power; lighting and energy efficiency.
Nanotech case study – Big leap for nanotechnology
One area showing promising results across a range of clean technology applications is nanotechnology. At the nano scale – a nanometre is a billionth of a metre – materials take on different properties from those they possess at the ‘bulk’ scale. For instance, metal nanoparticles are often highly catalytic and properties such as colour, electrical conductivity and magnetism can potentially be tuned by changing the size and shape of nanoparticles.
The market for nanotechnology in clean energy falls into four main categories:
• Energy-saving technologies such as better insulation, solid state lighting, making vehicles lighter and improving their fuel efficiency.
• Energy storage, including lithium-ion batteries for portable electronics and hybrid electric vehicles; materials that can store hydrogen for use in fuel cells or hydrogen powered vehicles, and super-capacitors.
• Energy generation, principally in hydrogen fuel cells; and thin film and organic solar photovoltaics.
• Catalytic technology, which could cut the cost of catalysts by 50% and lift efficiency, and also improve the viability of first and second-generation biofuels.
While some of the world’s largest companies, such as GE, are involved in nanotech research, most companies in the sector have been recently spun out of universities, or are still within them. There remains potential for growth in the sector – analysts Lux says that in 2006 total investment in clean technology totaled $24.5bn, of which nanotechnology attracted just $1.1bn. However, Lux says: “There is a loading up of applications at the back end of the R&D cycle that is creating a wave of innovation set to hit the markets in the next two to three years.”
Law and Legal
For a clean energy project to be sustainable, it must be technically, financially, and legally viable. And in order to be viable, projects must be appropriately structured to be legally compliant, manage risk, and be competitive. The legal aspects of a clean energy project are fundamentally about identifying, managing, and mitigating risk.
Some of the areas where cleantech law services could be provided include
● Ocean & Tidal
● Smart grid
● Electric vehicles
● Green building
● Energy efficiency
● Water technologies
● Solar lease agreements
● Licensing and permitting
● Power purchase agreements (PPA)
● Real estate, land use, zoning, land lease agreement, easements
● Energy facility siting and permitting
● Construction, design, operations and maintenance
● Public land leases
● Environmental impact assessments
● Joint development agreements
● Employment contracts
● LEED certifications
● Conflict resolution
● Interconnection agreements
● Emissions trading
● Renewable energy projects on Indian lands
● Licensing agreements
● Trade secrets
● Nondisclosure agreements
● USPTO green technology fast-track program
● Company organization and structuring
● Mergers and acquisitions
● Corporate regulatory compliance
● SEC Filings
● Due Diligence
● Corporate Social Responsibility
● Angel, venture capital and private equity financing
● Tax counseling
● Federal, state and local tax credits and rebates (ITC)
● 1603 grant applications
● State incentive programs
● Department of Energy loan applications
● Stimulus package
● Emissions trading
● Environmental attributes markets
● Carbon finance
● Formation of carbon funds
● Legislative counsel and proposals
● Federal and state stimulus package applications
● Renewable portfolio standards mandates
● Environmental compliance & impact
● White papers & environmental policy statements
● Global Climate Change legislation and policy
A big part of the burgeoning cleantech market is education, as millions of people begin to ponder the process of bringing themselves up to speed on the basics of wind turbines, solar panels, EV charging infrastructure, etc.
Few years ago, there were a mere handful of educational and training programs available for those interested in clean tech, primarily in advanced-degree university programs. Today, there are hundreds, if not thousands, with new ones popping up every day as a result of government funds flowing to colleges and universities to fund green jobs training.
A competitive energy workforce requires much more than technicians and building retrofitters. Scientists, engineers, high-tech entrepreneurs, and advanced manufacturers will play a critical role, just as they have in strategic sectors like infotech, aerospace, and biotech.
The energy workforce deficit and education gap will substantially limit the nation's ability to lead the clean-tech industry and accelerate clean energy development.
Also a growing consensus suggests that clean tech will be one of our generation's largest growth sectors. The global clean-tech market is expected to surpass $1 trillion in value within the next few years, and a perfect storm of factors - from the inevitability of a carbon-constrained world, to skyrocketing global energy demand, to long-term oil price hikes - will drive global demand for clean-energy technologies.
How is it solved
Nations are recognizing this painpoint and starting to implement a national strategy for energy leadership - including smart investments to educate the energy generation.
These programs are targeted to candidates at every level of experience, from those with a GED to engineering and chemistry graduates looking to develop next generation clean tech technologies.
Those already in the industry can gain new insight and skills by taking part in the many weekend seminars, extended learning courses, conferences and events.
- Provides an excellent preparation for an entry-level job or career change in what many, despite the ongoing downturn in the economy, expect to be fast-growing industries.
- And most provide an opportunity to network—which can be as valuable a takeaway as the skills—with professors, students, and those currently employed within the cleantech sector.
- Some clean tech training program won’t guarantee you a job in the industry, but will help you stand out—and deliver marketable skills.
While there is much relevant research taking place within the various departments of universities around the world, engineering faculties that focus exclusively on renewable energy and low carbon technologies are few and far between. Countries that already generate a high percentage of their energy requirements from renewable sources are leading the way in terms of renewable energy engineering education. In Iceland, for example, where 77% of primary energy comes from renewable sources, the School for Renewable Energy Science (RES) was established in 2006 in partnership with two Icelandic universities. RES offers Masters degrees in Renewable Energy Science with five optional specialist subjects of study: geothermal energy; fuel cell systems and hydrogen; biofuels and bioenergy; energy systems; and hydropower.
In New Zealand, the geothermal industry has long benefited from the geothermal training and research carried out at a specialist faculty at the University of Auckland. The Geothermal Institute was the centre of excellence in geothermal science and technology in New Zealand since its founding in 1978 until 2005, when it was absorbed into Auckland’s newly-created Institute of Earth Science and Engineering.
Both Iceland and New Zealand are small countries in terms of economy and population, making the task of leveraging educational resources to improve energy infrastructure more straightforward than it will be for nations with large populations like the US – or even the UK.
“A green job, also called a green-collar job is, according to the United Nations Environment Program, “work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R&D), administrative, and service activities that contribute(s) substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. Specifically, but not exclusively, this includes jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce energy, materials, and water consumption through high efficiency strategies; de-carbonize the economy; and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution.”
Green jobs would help having cleaner fuel production, such as wind energy, solar energy, Bio gas etc. It would create a whole new opportunity for environmental engineers, who can contribute to reducing power consumption, providing alternate energy systems etc. It would also open up a new arena for those involved in water-recycling, plumbing etc. Garbage removal, disposal and recycling would be another issue which can be addressed through green jobs. Green jobs mean making a better renewable energy sector than what is present, and a strong spirit of conscience to be more environment-friendly.
Green Jobs are wide ranged as can be seen from the aforementioned details, and the scope of this market is huge. This will have a huge impact on the economy.
Nations across the world are laying enhanced focus on creation of 'green jobs' as they are committed to fostering environmentally sustainable employment opportunities.
Given rapidly rising interest in energy alternatives, future years may well see worldwide employment soar—possibly as high as 2.1 million in wind energy and 6.3 million in solar PVs by 2030, and on the order of 12 million jobs in biofuels-related agriculture and industry.
Carbon credits are a tradable permit scheme. It is a simple, non-compulsory way to counteract the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and global warming. Carbon credits create a market for reducing greenhouse emissions by giving a monetary value to the cost of polluting the air. Carbon credits are also called emission permit. Carbon credits are certificates awarded to countries that are successful in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. India and China are likely to emerge as the biggest sellers and Europe is going to be the biggest buyer of carbon credits.
Good carbon management makes good business sense. Improving business efficiencies through the reduction of carbon and energy pollution not only has environmental benefits, but can ultimately benefit the bottom line. Similarly, the opportunity to generate new streams of revenue from carbon will also help to positively impact profits.
For trading purposes, one credit is considered equivalent to one tonne of CO2 emissions. Credits can be exchanged between businesses or bought and sold in international markets at the prevailing market price. The UK government has made more than €1bn (£844m) selling carbon permits to polluting businesses, and could make billions more each year for the next decade.
Considering that global research firms and financial institutions like World Bank and the IMF project the size of the carbon economy to reach over $2,000 billion per annum by 2020, the quantity of carbon credits produced is going to increase at a massive rate, compounding each year. Renewable energy such as wind farms, or installations of solar, small hydro, geothermal, and biomass energy can all create carbon offsets by displacing fossil fuels.
The carbon economy is the fastest growing industry globally with US$84 billion of carbon trading conducted in 2007, doubling to $116 billion in 2008, and expected to reach over $200 billion by 2012 and over $2,000 billion by 2020.
Renewable electricity certificate system
A renewable electricity certificate system is a book and claim system. This means that certificates are issued (or ‘booked’) only after the electricity is produced and is fed into the grid. Information concerning the type of production (wind, hydro or biomass, etc) as well as information like date of production, type of feedstock (for biomass, etc) is easy to establish and can be put on the certificate.
After the certificate is issued the certificates can be handed over to somebody else (the trade phase). Unlike other energy commodities the market for certificates like RECS Certificate and the Guarantee of Origin is not so transparent. This is mainly caused by the fact that although the product is relatively standard, it can also be expanded to a fully customized product.
The Association of Issuing Bodies (AIB) is the leading enabler of international energy certificate schemes, and guarantees the European Energy Certificate System (EECS).
A REC is not a carbon credit that represents one tonne of CO2 emissions but rather a unit that relates to how much CO2 is saved by the adoption of renewable energy and how efficiently one mega watt hour (MWh) of electricity can be produced.
Like carbon credits, in an attempt to phase out and replace traditional, emission intensive activities, RECs provide financial subsidies for the power sector to help renewable energy projects become more viable around the world.
An energy audit can be simply defined as a process to evaluate where a building or plant uses energy, and identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption. Effectively communicating audit findings and recommendations increases the chance of action being taken to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit is a preliminary activity towards instituting energy efficiency programs in an establishment.
Along with a rise of public concern about the environment has come an increase in energy auditing—assessment of homes and businesses for energy efficiency. Energy audits appeal to cash-strapped homeowners, business people looking to shrink their energy bills, and green-minded people looking for an unbiased opinion of what their homes or workplaces need to become Earth friendly.
What does it pay?
While no statistics for energy auditors specifically are available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for construction and building inspectors in May 2007 was $50,440.
What kind of background do you need?
To start out as an energy auditor, a background in science is recommended but not required. More important is knowledge of the environment and how daily living, especially household appliances, affect it. Simple geometry is the main tool in assessments—square footage is one of the most important factors affecting energy output. A certification from ResNet (Residential Energy Services Network) is becoming important as more businesses enter the industry.
How do you get started?
Energy auditing has a relatively low barrier to entry—around $10,000 to start. A couple pieces of inspectional equipment are necessary to start, including a blower door (an adjustable-frame door vital to testing for air leaks). Jim Conlon, founder and president of Elysian Energy in Washington, D.C., says the hardest part of the job is letting people know energy audits are available. Conlon left the Chicago stand-up comedy scene to start Elysian. He still gets on stage, but now it's to spread the word about energy auditing, which many in the District of Columbia have received for free through a government rebate system. Energy auditing is just one part of the rising green market. "We need high-level, top-down leadership," Conlon says, "but there's still a lot of work to be done at the bottom. It's sort of a grass-roots service."
- World Bank Carbon Finance Report for 2007
- Clean Technology Verticals
- Energy Generation
- Solar Energy
- Wind Energy
- Hydro Energy
- Bio-based Energy
- Geothermal Energy
- Ocean Energy
- Hydrogen Energy
- Waste to Energy
- Clean Coal
- Natural Gas
- Nuclear Energy
- Coal Energy
- Energy Efficiency
- Energy Infrastructure and Carriers
- Energy Storage
- Air & Environment Management
- Water and Waste water Management
- Sustainable Materials
- Sustainability Production/Manufacturing
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Sustainable Transportation
- Recycling Waste Management
- Sustainable Life Style