Climate change, depletion of natural resources and a growing concern for the safety of our planet for future generations have contributed to a relatively new form of energy management and production –Clean Technology.
Processing products and providing services that focus on renewable resources and sustainable energy while reducing waste make up this exciting and necessary branch of the natural resources sector.
Jeff Manser, Professor, Renewable Energies Technician Program at Niagara College says, “There is definitely an environmental benefit as it relates to climate change. When you see all of the concerns related to our climate and the apparent link between fossil fuel use and climate change, it becomes pretty clear that the clean energy sector has to be an integral part of any solution. It should be a sector that is poised for significant growth over the next few decades we try to find solutions to address this challenge.
Colleges, with their strong ties to industry, have first-hand knowledge of current and future business needs which allow them to train their students in the latest cutting-edge clean technologies.
Kerly Acosta Hitchcock, P.Eng, Program Head of Sustainable Energy Management (SEMAC) at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) explains,” BCIT is preparing its students by integrating sustainability into the curriculum. Sustainability is also being integrated into course delivery. Our energy management programs integrate sustainability, and so do the weekend in-person courses in renewable technologies, residential efficiency, and the online energy modeling course.”
Manser agrees, “We are trying to prepare our students with a skill set that allows them to adapt to a changing environment. Instead of focusing in on one aspect of renewable energy, we want students to understand and develop fundamental skills that they can apply in different areas. A strong analytical background is a must. Things are constantly changing as technology and requirements change. We want to prepare students to be able to adapt, and continue to learn once they leave the College.”
With a greater worldwide emphasis on clean tech, the field will continue to develop and change over time.
Hitchcock says, “Clean energy technologies are part of an evolution of the energy and resource extraction industries. Because resource extraction is such a large part of Canada’s economy, clean energy technologies have the potential to be a large contributor to the Canadian economy.”
Manser adds, “As it is a potential growth sector, I think it’s important to develop the sector for the benefit of the economy, and the local environment. Having development here in Canada will result in direct benefit to Canadian industries and the greater population. It also then becomes technologies and best practices that can be shared with others. Industry, as well as colleges and universities here in Canada are all able to contribute to this development process.”
Clean technology makes use of renewable and sustainable forms of energy like solar power, wind power, hydro electric energy, geothermal and biogases and biofuels. Employment in this field is expected to rise as more industries look for ways to minimize their carbon footprints.
“As a job title, energy management did not exist 10 years ago. However, now energy management is a desirable job, and the turnover is low. The demand for energy managers is increasing as companies seek to save money and minimize their environmental impacts. As well, energy modelers are in demand within BC because of the new Energy Step Code,” says Hitchcock. “Employment opportunities for energy managers will continue to grow, regardless of regulations in place to protect the environment. There is a limit to natural resources; the cost of energy will continue to rise as population increases. Hence, companies that use energy to function will look for ways to become more energy efficient.”
There are plenty of employment opportunities available in the clean technology sector for people with the proper skill sets.
“You’ll want to have an interest in problem solving, a willingness to travel and a commitment to lifelong learning as both needs and technologies change rapidly,” Manser advises. “I would point out that there are a lot of different roles available in the industry. Potential students will want to have strong math and analytical backgrounds. It offers the opportunity to apply a technical skill set in a growing field, and can help to create an improved environment. If the thought of a career that is both challenging and rewarding is interesting to you, then it is something worth considering.”
Students considering entering the field can look forward to a long career in an area where they will truly make a significant, positive impact to both the environment and the economy of Canada.
Hitchcock shares, “There are many jobs in every discipline of study or trade. Within the programs I manage, the demand for folks with skills in energy management is high. For our Building Controls and Energy Management program, there are more job opportunities then there are graduates of the program. We are seeing a huge demand from industry for energy modelers in BC too. Clean technologies minimize environmental impacts such as green house gases and rising temperatures. Clean technologies provide adaptation solutions for climate change as well as provide meaningful employment.” Because clean technologies will provide solutions to shortages in water, energy and other natural resources, as well as addressing such issues as deforestation , pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,Hitchcock is passionate about the role of clean technology in Canada’s future. “Clean tech and new industry practices will allow us to sustain the resources we need for life,” she says.” We should be striving for clean air, water, and food for all people. These are necessities to life.”
By Sharon Frank