The term cleantech has origins in the venture capital investment community and grew to include industries such as solar, wind, water purification and biofuels. Cleantech now includes investment asset class, technology and business sectors which provide products and services related to clean energy, environment, sustainable or “green”.
The Cleantech Group (formerly Cleantech Venture Network), energy consultancy Clean Edge, the book Cleantech Revolution and Cleantech blogs helped make the term cleantech popular. Cleantech is the third largest venture capital investment sector after IT and biotech. Before the term became popular around 2005, cleantech referred to equipment and supplies related to dry cleaning.
While greentech is sometimes used interchangeably with cleantech, The Cleantech Group differentiates these terms as follows. Greentech or envirotech are regulatory driven technologies, such as smokestack scrubbers, which have limited attractive returns on investment. Cleantech is driven by productivity-based purchasing and offers better returns on investment. Other definitions of cleantech specify that products are competitive in that they may provide superior performance at reduced cost or require less resources.
Cleantech can be divided into the following industry segments: Energy Generation, Energy Storage, Energy Infrastructure, Energy Efficiency, Transportation, Water and Wastewater, Air and Environment, Materials, Manufacturing/Industrial, Agriculture, Recycling and Waste.