What is CleanTech?

Andrea Arias
4 min readJan 30, 2022

From buzzword to commitment (?)


In the first round of research, cleantech, appeared mainly as a buzzword for the financial sector. I went ahead and allowed myself to succumb to the rabbit hole that clarified why it came to be so. Like always, the story begins with a genius few having the capacity to look at current affairs and realize the faults and missteps that will affect the “next generation of problems”. They then try to create preventative measures. And again, as usual, a whole other lot of people ignore said geniuses for the sake of money. As the realizations continue to come through continuous catastrophic world events that cause economical repercussions, nearly 70 years later there is a real consideration of how green technologies can be both beneficial to the environment and investors’ pockets. It is through this process of selling it to investors that terms like green tech and clean tech have been invoked and pinned against each other. The reality of it is that — the name really doesn’t matter and is an exercise in putting a categorical denomination to identify and control a new asset type.

This is even more evident when you see the differences in entries across time on Wikipedia, for example (see 2007 vs. now). It is also evident by how the definitions of what cleantech is, varies among industry participants. It started by being,

“Methods of reducing the negative environmental impact of otherwise conventional tech like coal and natural gas”

But now, after everything I have read, I believe it has been more refined into three major tenements that have to work simultaneously,

1 — Superior performance at lower costs

2 — Greatly reduce or eliminate the environmental impact

3 — Improve the productive and responsible use of natural resources.

Still, this seemed to be far too ambitiously broad, and was delighted to find that, for now, there are eleven major segments,

1 — Energy Generation

2 — Energy Storage

3 — Energy Infrastructure

4 — Energy Efficiency

5 — Transportation

6 — Water & Wastewater

7 — Air & Environment

Andrea Arias

Architectural journalist, forward-thinker, and lover of Spanglish. Seeking stories that blend society, design, and culture.