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Has the term 'cleantech' fallen out of vogue, asks Vancouver insider

The global clean technology industry could be on the verge of a major rebranding, argues one Vancouver-based insider, beginning with the term "cleantech" itself.

"It's a heretical question for someone who's spent much of the last 10 years of his career furthering the cleantech meme globally," Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., an international cleantech consultancy with offices in Vancouver, recently wrote.

"But having just returned from a week of meetings with Silicon Valley investors, lawyers and others, I find myself facing the reality that intelligentsia in the sector are distancing themselves from the phrase."

That phrase – "cleantech" – is broadly used to describe proprietary technology that helps create a greener planet. Broadly, in that it could refer to a new type of wind turbine, cheaper ways to desalinate water, more efficient streetlights or any number of solutions for reducing humankind’s ecological footprint.

Clean technology is a rapidly evolving industry. Insiders don’t doubt that in an overheated, overcrowded and overdeveloped world there will be "strong future demand" for such environmental solutions, Kachan writes. (Such as in China, where The Tyee reported a five-part series on the Communist-led green revolution).

Yet according to those same clean technology insiders, Kachan adds, "the term cleantech has undeniably fallen from favor."

Part of the problem is that clean technology has been embraced to some extent by most major industries, from "water to energy to agriculture," Kachan writes. Which means "cleantech" no longer signals something new and exciting to investors.

A bigger reason still: Many cleantech firms have performed poorly (think Solyndra) and venture investment in the industry fell 33 percent last year.

"The term [cleantech] is now poisonous for some venture partners," Kachan writes. "Those at the very center of the space that we've thought of as cleantech are quietly starting to use other phrases."

Deloitte recently rebranded a cleantech event it hosts annually as "Energy Tech." Kachan asks: "Is it just a matter of time until others start picking similar monikers?"

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy for The Tyee.

Funding for this article was partially provided by the Climate Justice Project of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, with support from the Fossil Fuel Development Mitigation Fund of Tides Canada Foundation.

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