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Cleantech: Learn the Lingo

Wind turbineIf you are looking for a job in the emerging renewable energy sector, we have some insight into the emerging language. 

Whenever you’re transitioning between fields, there can be a change in the language used to describe the work you do or the values and mission of the companies you’re applying to. I find that this is especially true for cleantech. It has its own jargon. So, if you’re applying for roles in this sector it’s important to understand the words being used so that you can use them in your application materials. Here I’ll break down a few commonly used, but maybe not entirely understood, terms. Definitions of terms can be different even within the sector, so be sure to check for company-specific usage in the job description or on the company website.

Net zero - This refers to emissions of greenhouse gasses. To achieve net zero by 2050, Canada will need to either stop producing greenhouse gasses entirely, or equally balance the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount that is removed from the atmosphere. The second scenario is a more realistic goal, and the idea is that any emissions that are produced will be offset by measures that remove an equivalent amount of emissions from the atmosphere, such as carbon capture and storage or planting trees.

Decarbonization - This refers to the process of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that are released into the atmosphere. The Carbon Management Strategy indicates that decarbonization must be achieved through both the reduction of pollution and through carbon capture, which removes carbon from the atmosphere (direct air capture), or from emissions before they are released.

Renewable energy - This term refers to sources of energy that are replenished naturally on a regular basis, such as solar, wind, and hydropower.

Blue Hydrogen: Hydrogen that is produced using natural gas, but the carbon dioxide emissions are captured and stored instead of released into the atmosphere. There is also Green Hydrogen which is produced through the electrolysis of water; this requires electricity so it is key that the electricity is generated through a renewable source.

Energy Storage: Many renewable energy sources are not constant such as power from a solar array that is only emitted during sunlight hours. Even for those sources that are more constant, like hydro power, it can be difficult to modulate them to match the needs of the energy grid. Therefore, there needs to be a way to store and distribute energy to match supply with demand. Most often this is done through batteries and battery banks, but it can also be done in other physical ways.

Electrification: This term often refers to transitioning a process, machine or object from using a fossil fuel-based energy source, to electricity (which is hopefully provided by renewable energy sources). Changing to an electric vehicle, an electric heat pump, and an electric hot water heater are all examples of electrification.

These aren’t necessarily terms that you will list as skills in your application materials - though if you have experience in these areas you will want to highlight them. Instead, you’ll want to use these terms when describing your motivation for transitioning into the cleantech sector. Or perhaps you have experience in your personal life that is relevant and shows your enthusiasm for participating in cleantech. For example, maybe you recently bought an electric vehicle or an e-bike, or maybe you’ve installed solar on your roof - using these non-work examples is a great way to highlight how you fit within the values and mission of a company.

Our Climate Career Blueprint can help you match your current skills to jobs in renewable energy and help map out a training or upskilling path. 

You can also watch this presentation where our Just Transition Lead, Ana Guerra Marin talks about some of these areas of interest. 


Post by freelance writer Anna Kobb


This blog is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

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