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"I'm energized by the work I'm doing. The energy efficiency sector is made up of a dedicated community of passionate people and there is a lot of opportunity to learn, share knowledge, and develop skills so I'm excited about the future. I see the sector continuing to grow, and data-backed energy management becoming an essential part of all operations."
Alyssa Nippard is a classic data analytics nerd.
Her employer, Greenwave Innovations, actively monitors a building's electricity, water, and gas consumption, and then the company analyzes the data to suggest initial strategies the property's owner can employ to improve its energy and resource performance.
"We want to know what's going on, how a building's being used," Nippard explains.
Or, as was the case in early 2020, how it is not being used. During the pandemic, a local government needed to close the doors on its community center, which included a wave pool and adjacent ice arena. Given that the facility was generating zero revenue during the lockdown, the city needed to minimize energy costs without risking damage to complex equipment.
In other words, it wasn't as simple as throwing a big switch. "They went into 'vacant' mode," Nippard recalls. "The building operators shut down as best they could with the information that they had. That reduced usage by 50 per cent, which is great."
But because Greenwave had previously outfitted the complex with dozens of tiny monitoring devices, she says, "we were able to go line-by-line and look at individual chillers, fans, pumps, and test out whether these things needed to truly be on, or not." After a day on the phone with facility staff, Greenwave engineers were able to reduce the facility's energy use an extra 30 per cent.
"We can see in real time what kind of difference that makes," she says. "So throughout that process, we were able to figure out what could be shut off."
As policy advisor, Nippard stays tuned in with public policies across Canada, tracking where regulations and incentive programs are headed, and what funding is available to clients. She also holds the pen on the story of what has been done to date, and what's possible, and shares those stories with the public and with potential clients.
Greenwave is active in municipal, commercial, and industrial facilities across Canada; it has numerous clients in Alberta and in Saskatchewan, where it is headquartered. The energy sector has a very different meaning for many people there, of course. Are young people aware of the opportunities in efficiency?
"The awareness is definitely growing," she reports. "Part of my role at Greenwave is to help our clients tell their sustainability story and make the positive results they've achieved through energy efficiency improvements more accessible. To do this, we use carbon equivalencies in our public-facing dashboard in order to relate energy consumption reductions to tangible actions, like driving a car or charging a cell-phone."
Nippard took a circuitous path to land at her gig. She started post-secondary schooling but then, like many young people, decided to take some time out to travel and work in various industries, and figure out her values and ambitions. That led her to consider her environmental impact, and the conclusion that change needed to be systemic: "I was ready to see what I could do on a bigger scale, to scale it up." She learned about Greenwave, and reached out, and eventually formed a connection and started her position. She's now finishing up her degree in environmental studies while working full time at the company.
Nippard thinks that energy efficiency will continue to spawn new industries and bring about change.
"It's an exciting time to be working in the sector. Data-collection is playing a key role in understanding how resources are being used and in identifying where efficiency opportunities exist. Investment dollars are increasingly leaning on organizations' social and environmental responsibility and we are seeing a growing appetite to achieve both energy consumption and emissions reductions."