The Next Industrial Revolution

  • The evolution of clean energy could, in the eyes of Ernst & Young, become a revolution.

    An industrial revolution.

    That's right. The global auditing and analysis firm says the emerging green energy movement could be as revolutionary as the era that produced the cotton gin and steam engine.

    "The cleantech-enabled transformation to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy may be the next industrial revolution. As this transformation accelerates, global corporations are increasingly realizing that they must understand the impact of cleantech on their industries and develop strategic plans to adapt to this change," Ernst & Young says in this story on its Web site.

    Almost 90 percent of the companies that responded to its annual global survey of corporations with more than $1 billion revenue said cleantech is an "organization-wide or business-unit-level initiative."

    About a third of them said they plan to earmark at least 3 percent of their revenue over the next five years to clean technology, and 75% said their clean-energy spending will increase.

    More demand for energy, higher prices, security concerns and diminishing natural resources will be catalysts for the growing movement. In addition, Ernst & Young says, progress toward a low carbon energy-efficient economy presents an economic opportunity for investors and others.

    Ernst & Young cites these trends:

  • The price of solar and wind energy will fall as they grow in magnitude (Check out this blog from my colleague);

  • Going green is a strategic business decision;

  • More businesses are developing sustainability measures, and reporting them to stakeholders and customers.

    Of course, this won't happen overnight. The first industrial revolution spanned decades, and this one is stumbling along in its early stages. Ernst & Young says raising capital to fuel the transformation will be an issue, especially in these austere times.

    Interestingly, the Ernst & Young report was the second one this week to sound a similar theme. Pike Research cited a different revolution - the proliferation of the Internet - when it said the military's embrace of green energy could drive renewable energy into the mainstream of society. More on that here.

    None of this surprises us. We have witnessed over the past few years the bumpy beginnings of change. More homes, businesses, cities and farms are using the wind and sun to partially run their operations. Investment into potential biofuels is robust, and energy efficiency - the most cost-effective and fastest way to lower power bills and shrink a carbon footprint - is gaining a faithful following.

    Let the revolution begin.

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