Pundits and prognosticators should take notice. The evidence points to an emerging reality that is leading the so-called green technology revolution. Futurists and visionaries may be looking for some incredible and revolutionary breakthrough, but a variety of compelling new technologies are already being commercialized.
Green energy technologies are those that either harness power from renewable, sustainable sources or aim to reduce adverse human impact on the environment. For new sources of energy to be widely implemented, investors, technologists, and policymakers must understand their potential impact and the path to market that will ensure their commercial viability. Many new technologies can be successful if they are deployed according to sound business principles.
While some allegedly green technologies are struggling to gain traction with businesses and consumers, others are quietly changing the world and addressing the need for responsible and functional solutions to complex environmental challenges.
So, where are these technologies, who is behind them and why are they quietly seizing momentum in the marketplace? The answers are remarkably simple. Like most advances over the course of history, they are conceptually simple, relatively inexpensive and only modestly disruptive.
The automobile is an example of change that occurred at the onset of the 20th century. It harnessed an older technology of propulsion but applied it in a different format. With the advent of mass production, overall costs per unit were reduced and the technology became widely affordable. Additionally, it did not usher in an entirely new mode of transport. It only eliminated the need for an animal to provide propulsion and made travel a modest amount more rapid and marginally more reliable.
As we head towards the conclusion of the first 20 years of the 21st century, the keen observer will be able to identify technologies that have moved from ideas to commercial reality and are quickly going mainstream. Several may be below the radar at the moment, but they won’t stay there for long.
Green technologies are not immune from the ordinary laws that govern business success. The idea that some “better mouse trap” will sell itself is as false as it is comedic. The business success comes from being well capitalized, having a superior value proposition and ensuring that business leadership is equipped and motivated to execute against objectives in a disciplined and systematic manner. If the product or service is ground breaking, wonderful. Who doesn’t love something that is groundbreaking? But does it deliver what I want?
This raises the important principle of stakeholder alignment. If a new technology can align the interests of several disparate interested parties in an industry sector, it has a particularly good chance for success. Stakeholder alignment creates unstoppable momentum for green technologies. In most instances, being more eco-friendly, while desirable, isn’t the primary motivator of change. However, when a number of constituencies all experience a simultaneous benefit that is both measurable and meaningful, change proceeds and the adoption of the new technology is perceived as essential rather than optional.
An example of stakeholder alignment is a fast-growing Hawaiian enterprise called Elevate Structure. It was launched in 2012 by a team of residential engineers in with a dream to develop profitable spaces for living by building eco-friendly structures. The portable spaces are elevated above ground and, therefore, utilize 6-20 times more usable space while minimizing the overall footprint on the ground. This uses less than desirable land, gives consumers the flexibility to expand or relocate their green homes and provides municipalities with new incremental tax revenues without adding infrastructure.
Another good example of stakeholder alignment is International Wastewater Systems of Vancouver, Canada, http://www.sewageheatrecovery.com. Employing a simple idea and proprietary technology, IWS has pioneered the concept of turning the energy contained in warm waste water into heat that is processed, reclaimed and reused. With an ingenious idea and a scalable solution, the company is poised for success internationally as its solutions are increasingly in demand. The success of the endeavour isn’t exclusively due to the green technology. It is because the technology has been able to address diverse needs among a broad group that includes energy providers, builders and building owners. The company’s solutions, green technology and ease of implementation presents and unassailable value proposition to anyone who wants to reduce the heating and cooling costs of buildings. The eco-story is largely secondary. The “green argument” involves saving large amounts of money!
Investors that are considering taking a position in new green technologies are advised to look beyond the excitement of a product or process. A company’s financial state is always a consideration. What have they sold and what projects are well underway? As important as these fundamentals are, it is also critical to examine the “alignment factor” of the product or service to properly evaluate the scope of its potential.