The Organizational Strategist

November 3, 2009

Clean Tech: Working Smarter, not Harder


The long held notions to reduce, reuse, and recycle will help our environment and preserve our limited resources still hold true. Consumers and companies are making more of an effort to care for our planet’s sustainability. However, the paths for achieving that aim have been evolving and diversifying. Using less material, fuel, electricity or other inputs (reduction) are still a primary pursuit. Yet, it seems to be that the biggest thing going on right now are innovations to harness and utilize energy through a smarter means instead of a more rigorous means. Essentially, the sustainability pursuits for organizations must work smarter, not harder, to keep up with the latest trends and technology.

-Sustainable Alternative Energy Avenues-

Smart grid is an example of this kind of sustainability pursuit that many companies, including Boeing, IBM, Oracle, Google, and more are getting into. Fundamentally it’s a means of working through the base economic principle of supply versus demand applied to mass scale electricity usage. As demand grows and supply isn’t as available, the price for energy (particularly electricity) goes up. The smart grid technologies and implementations would help manage the supply versus demand so that there isn’t as much stress on the plants creating the energy. Working smarter via smart grid technology and infrastructure would save money, reduce stress on energy generators, lessen the possibility of a power outage, and potentially allow for companies or households to sell back power. To learn more about how smart grids work, what components go into them, and the current evaluation of the potential benefits, check out this Strategy and Business article. To keep up with smart grid press, you may want to bookmark Greentech Media’s greentechgrid site, which can be found here. That last site has a lot of articles and resources to cover what all is happening, both from the technical and organizational involvement sides of smart grid development.

Solar panels, hydro-electric, and wind power and others take advantage of energy in its natural forms of movement and/or heat. These are other sustainable clean technology pursuits that have vast potential to provide the energy consumers need as well. These power sources take energy from a naturally occurring source and transform it into another, easily accessible and consumable means for our usage. Wind turbines and hydroelectric dams use the kinetic force of wind or gravity, respectively, to harness energy. Solar energy is harnessing the heat from the sun’s rays to polarize the photo-voltaic cells, among other solar power harnessing means. McKinsey did a neat interactive post on solar technologies. The article can be found here, which will explain the definitions as well as compare their strengths and challenges.

These technologies are all harnessing energy that is already out there; we just need to capture it. Once we’ve done that we can use it to our advantage. In some ways, these sources of energy are like finding a twenty dollar bill in your ski jacket that you had saved for emergency snacks and you are surprised to find it when you pull it out of your winter clothes bin. These are energy opportunities that are at your feet and we need to simply find a way to pick it up. Instead of doing the hard tasks of mining and burning to create energy as coal plants do, we can be smarter by using what we have all around us. These are ways we can work smarter, instead of harder.

-Organizational Clean Tech Use-

Better energy usage, capturing the energy that’s right in front of us and innovation to breakthrough into new energy avenues has caught the attention of organizations from government to businesses. Being smart about energy has definitely caught on. The gas-electricity hybrid Prius automobile from Toyota has been extremely popular and become a symbol of that company’s innovation. President Obama’s administration wants to make the US a leader in clean energy pursuits. An article from the San Jose Mercury News states that the new “Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy… has received $400 million through the federal stimulus act.” That money is going to be used to help fund new ideas to create the next generation of clean technologies in the US. Notable companies, Google and Microsoft, have long been looking for sustainability measures in their products and operations. As mentioned in this Financial Times article both of those companies are investigating wind energy and Microsoft has put a server farm in Dublin to take advantage of the natural cooling the weather there provides.

On the product side, I found that Microsoft’s Windows 7 Operating System has some clean tech examples. Windows 7 has improved power management and boot time, mentioned in this ComputerWorld article, which reduces power usage and the shortened boot time answers many prayers. A recent Microsoft’s Software Enables Earth sustainability blog post states that the power management features include automatically powering down when idle, handling system component power usage better (i.e. not powering a component when not needed/in use), and new diagnostic tools to help with power management. Another post from the same blog states that there’s a 91% carbon emission reduction from using digital downloads instead of producing CDs/DVDs. Most of these are management tools that enable more control of emissions and resource usage. While not revolutionary in their approach, smart and helpful decision making can help ensure a company has a lessened negative environmental impact, decreased energy costs, and increase operating performance.


The Triple Bottom Line Sustainability, defined and described in a previous article of mine here, can be achieved by many means. Energy usage has become an important topic and will likely continue to become even more important in the future. Clean tech, thus far, seems to be focused on better managing resources. The improved resource management and usage is done by working smarter, instead of working harder.

Pursuing improved management offers better awareness, control, security, and lessened risks. Leadership goes beyond management and inspires change. A question that I have been pondering after researching clean tech and the improved management of energy resources is what would it mean to be a leader in the clean technology realm?


-Hyperlinked Sites-

Smart Grid explanation site:

Greentechgrid site:

McKinsey Interactive article:

ARPA-E receives $400 million for clean tech grants:

Financial Times article mentioning Microsoft and Google looking into wind energy:

Computerworld article on Windows 7:

Microsoft Software Enabled Earth blog post on Windows 7:

Microsoft Software Enabled Earth blog post on carbon reductions by using downloads:

Triple Bottom Line Sustainability post:



  1. Guys after watching and hearing this discussion about climate change and global warming we are missing the fact that some day for sure oil reserves are going to be exhausted. So what we are going to do then? Wind energy definitely can’t replace the fossil fuels. Nuclear power is too dangerous and can fall into wrong hands.I feel that solar energy if fully tapped can be used. Moreover a lot of job opportunities can be created as well. Yesterday I did a little bit of research about the solar power potential on and found out very nice info. I am fully convinced that solar is the future. Any comments??

    Comment by Mark carter — April 6, 2010 @ 4:02 am

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for reading and sharing. Resources are indeed scarce when viewed in the long term lense. Any number of ideas, technologies and methods may help along the way to ensuring energy is available when we need it. I too agree that solar power has a lot of potential in this realm.

      Comment by Whit — April 16, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

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