Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tuesday Review: The Clean Tech Revolution

A standing feature of Webechoes is the Tuesday Review. This feature will review a book, video, television series or episode or other lengthy work of interest. [Apologies for the delay, no internet access on Christmas Day]

The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder.

The book's purpose is to serve as an overview of growing clean technologies industries and companies. The technologies and companies that are presented are considered to be up and coming and likely candidates for investment. In so doing the book gives a snapshot of the state of development of many technologies for reducing energy usage, generating electricity more cleanly, altering personal transportation, and several others.

Each chapter examines a technology sector for chapters two through eight. Included in each is a focus on the companies that have traditionally been working in that field, as well as new comers who have secured financing. The technology groupings used are Solar Energy, Wind Power, Biofuels and Biomaterials, Green Buildings, Personal Transportation, Smart Grid, Mobile Technologies, and Water Filtration. Unfortunately, since its a book with a fixed set of information, the volume will quickly be outdated as new innovations are made and new companies emerge.

The final two chapters do not examine any technologies. Chapter nine covers the incentives and tools that have been used to create clean tech magnets and examines the cities that have become centers for clean tech development. The final chapter contains advice on how to market clean technology. This is Marketing 101 and in the author's estimation, necessary, given the failures of the industry to successfully mass market their products and services. The biggest points here are to price the product correctly to not be seen as luxury or niche and don't sell focused on the cleanness of the product. To achieve mass market appeal, the product has to stand as as good or better than its rival products with its cleanness a secondary facet.

This book is a valuable read for anyone who wants to see what the current state of development of various potentially breakthrough technologies. It is easy to bypass the investment and technology development advice angle of the book. The authors chose to separate their recommendations into boxes separate from the text of the chapters. The end of every chapter is a 10 to watch, summary of the companies they feel are most relevant or most likely to make a big impact in their space.

Most chapters also contain one or more "Breakthrough Opportunity" box. These summarize what the authors feel is the breakthrough most needed to significantly alter the market for the products. For example, for solar energy, the breakthrough the authors see as making the difference is the creation of a solar system that costs less than $2/watt of installed capacity, and therefore installed cost to a homeowner near $5000 for a 2.5kW home system.

Lastly, each chapter has a "Clean Tech Consumer" box just before the 10 to watch list. Each of these contains two items that should be practical now or products that are now available. They range from using more energy efficient products, purchasing high-ethanol fuels, going to a tankless water heater, and installing a home wind generator.