Random Thoughts from the Chairman | April 1

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman
Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

GLOBE 2014

By Steve Gerritson, WCTA Board Chair

Every even-numbered year the GLOBE Foundation of Vancouver, BC, hosts a clean technology conference and trade show. For the past five shows, the Seattle area has had a delegation that has either exhibited at or attended the trade show. (Part of the fun of going has been the bus ride up and back.) Clean technology companies, and many countries, sponsor booths, and attendance is a good way to keep up with the latest developments in clean tech from around the world.

This history of attendance over an eight-year period points out how the field of clean technology has changed in the relatively short time that clean tech has been considered a separate field. In 2006 and 2008, most of the exhibitors were developers of wind farms and solar arrays, with some other energy-related companies and a few organizations (publications and associations), either in country pavilions or their own booths. Most of the European countries had large booths, and were handing out directories of the many clean tech companies within their borders.

In 2010 the big energy projects were still in evidence, but there weren’t nearly as many. There were digesters using all sorts of inputs, fuel cells, materials made from recycled products, a few more publications and associations, and Asian countries competing with the Europeans for space.

By 2012 the big energy projects were all but gone, with only a waste-to-energy company from the UK representing “big capital.” Many of the exhibitor companies focused on more efficient lighting and other energy-efficiency products, small-scale energy generation, and green building. The country pavilions had fewer companies, and merely handed out literature on behalf of the clean tech industry “back home.”

At this year’s show the shift was even more dramatic. There were far fewer company booths, and many of them were much smaller than in previous years. Many of the exhibitors were associations or non-profits, and a number of the European countries stayed away. “Sustainability” rather than clean technology seemed to be the dominant theme.

So what does this imply for clean technology in general? It’s obvious that the lack of government subsidies and the natural gas boom have caused a huge shift in the energy market. In the long term, however, it looks like “clean technology” is becoming a part of every sector and less of a separate one. Stay tuned.