The global market for cleantech is expected to reach US$650 billion by 2030 (nearly 3x what it’s worth today). Like any business sector, today’s cleantech startups are focused on solutions that solve pain points, fill demand, drive efficiency, and build capacity. But their big vision? Leaving a cleaner, greener world where human beings can flourish.
Let's take Tesla as an example. It might just be the biggest of the world's cleantech success stories in 2023 - the same as in 2022 or other years previously. With a market cap of nearly USD $800 billion, Tesla is the largest EV manufacturer in the world. They've not only made EVs mainstream among consumers, they’ve also lit a fire under traditional automakers to electrify. Tesla's playbook was straightforward: bring compelling mass-market electric cars to market, and do it quickly.
They're staving off cleantech competition both from China and from domestic US car companies and European EV automakers that are all flush with subsidies. The personal story of Elon Musk and his simultaneous leadership of X (formerly Twitter), SpaceX and other ventures is frankly inspiring to many - and his biography coming out now is timely indeed.
Elon is famously his own spokesman, for better or for worse, and has said "nope" to using PR, whether internally or externally. Fair enough. When you're the wealthiest and arguably most successful business owner in the world, might not be in need of public relations help. Elon (and Tesla and all his other companies) are something of a special case. A lot of other businesses need help telling their story - and cleantech is full of companies with incredible tech whose story needs to be told.
From a PR and newsmaker's perspective, what's happening in cleantech? Here's our look at longer-term narratives in clean energy, carbon capture, and big data.
Energy's future is being shaped by cleantech innovators
Is fusion power really just around the corner? This magical technology - an order of magnitude mightier than fission power explored in the Hollywood blockbuster Oppenheimer this year - the might be closer than many realize.
We've had our eye on General Fusion, a company in Mind Meld PR's backyard on Canada's clean and green west coast, for some time. The company aims to achieve the unprecedented: create a controlled fusion reaction producing more energy than it consumes, similar to how our sun produces energy.
General Fusion founder Michel Laberge ditched his day job to start the company, winning investment from tech titans like Jeff Bezos. The need for this was urgent in his own mind long before the recent energy crunch we've seen worldwide. “If we don't do something about energy we're going to be living in little huts with windmills on top," he told CNN 10 years ago," Laberge said.
Fusion power could be a panacea in a world where fossil fuel supplies become not so much scarce as unreliable. The Russia-Ukraine war ignited a full-blown global energy crisis as a huge percentage of worldwide oil suddenly threatened to go off the market. Catapulting prices and destabilizing energy channels are still with us. Europe's natural gas turmoil was just the tip; the aftershocks have rippled worldwide.
As a result, governments around the world are aggressively pursuing energy alternatives. In the States, the Biden Administration's Inflation Reduction Act earmarks $369 billion in incentives for cleantech, while the European Union is working on legislation aimed to give cleantech companies a boost, mostly through uncapped tax credits.
General Fusion is far from the only player in the clean power space. For instance, NuScale Power, which went public via SPAC in 2021, is developing small modular reactors to produce nuclear power more safely than traditional nuclear power plants. H2Pro, which has received backing from Bill Gates, is developing a water splitting technology that aims to reduce the production cost of green hydrogen. Sunrun, which went public in 2015, offers residential solar electricity and offers a home solar battery service.
While energy production grabs headlines, the rising star of the conversation is storage. Startups like Hydrostor, Form Energy, and Highview Power are building emissions-free energy storage tech based on some fascinating mechanisms, like gravity, compressed air, and cryogenics.
Alternative energy's path is riddled with unknowns, and many startups will inevitably fizzle. But this highlights cleantech's real mission: not just turning green, but beefing up our infrastructure for the threats ahead.
Cleantech cleans up our plastic trash
During a dive in Greece's cerulean waters, 16-year-old Boyan Slat encountered a sea with more plastic than fish. From this revelation, a simple question emerged: "Why not just clean it up?"
After a year of experimenting with ideas and simple tests, Boyan came up with a passive concentration system that uses ocean currents to concentrate and catch plastic waste. Initially, his idea did not gain traction, but in March 2013, things changed, thanks to the viral spread of his talk at a TEDx conference.
Today, Slat’s company, The Ocean Cleanup, is one of the most recognizable cleantech companies, though it operates under a nonprofit model. It’s focused on "remediation,” which means it operates under the notion that while preventing ocean waste is the best strategy for the future, treatment is essential for the present.
Lowering our carbon footprint. Carbon capture is a hot cleantech sector to help us keep cool
Carbon capture technology works by isolating and removing carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes or directly from the atmosphere to mitigate its impact on climate change.
Startups like Carbon Engineering (acquired by Oxy Low Carbon Ventures this year for $1.1 billion), have certainly captured headlines for their direct approach to addressing climate change.
That company started with founder and Harvard Professor David Keith exploring direct air capture as a tool to reduce emissions. Most direct air capture solutions worked by stripping greenhouse gasses from a refinery or a power plant smokestack, but Carbon Engineering’s approach was different: extract ambient air and isolate the CO2 in a chemical process so it can be injected into the Earth or used as a feedstock for sustainable fuels.
In the world of PR, grandiose visions often take center stage. But for these cleantech companies, their allure isn't found in generic battles against ocean waste or climate change. Instead, it's in their art of seeing the unseen, crafting solutions through lenses others haven't even thought to look through. That’s true innovation.
Cleantech's big bet on big data
We can’t mention Tesla without mentioning Elon Musk. The man whose name has become synonymous with big ideas and audacious tech is, at heart, a data aficionado. In his own words from 2022, “Tesla is as much a software company as it is a hardware company.”
As the cleantech sector continues to grow, the spotlight won’t just be on shiny solar panels or sleek EVs, it’s on the invisible lines of code, the bits and bytes that guide those machines: data.
Data is foundational for all cleantech initiatives, but now we're seeing a surge of startups specifically zeroing in on the data niche within the cleantech sector. Startups are now using artificial intelligence to forecast grid demands, tapping into the Internet of Things to monitor energy and water use in buildings, and leveraging blockchain to facilitate peer-to-peer renewable energy trading.
Data will be the long-term scoreboard for cleantech solutions. Their real-world impact will be quantifiable and their improvements will be measurable. And in the world of PR, numbers don’t just talk, they scream. A sustainable mission is great, but the metrics that validate it? That’s gold.
For cleantech startups, start with the right PR agency
The cleantech revolution is more than just a green push; it's about genuine innovation, addressing real-world problems, and reimagining our energy and environmental future.
For cleantech companies poised for impact and seeking the right amplification, partnering with the right PR agency can make all the difference.
Take the next step in shaping your cleantech startup’s story. Reach out to MindMeld PR today