Balpreet Kukreja believes in the power of clean energy to help fight climate change. He also understands the importance of building a strong business case for engineering projects — something he learned while completing his Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) in Clean Energy Engineering degree at UBC.
Kukreja graduated in May 2019 and is now a fleet engineer with the City of Vancouver. He is using his education to help make the city more sustainable by introducing vehicles powered by electricity instead of fossil fuels.
The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions
In Vancouver, more than 50 per cent of all trips taken are by foot, bike or transit
City of Vancouver
By some estimates, the global clean technology industry could be worth $25 trillion over the next 10 years
How can we reframe climate change as an opportunity?
There is huge momentum in the clean energy field. Fossil fuel companies are in the business of providing energy, yet they are now realizing that they need to evolve into clean energy companies if they are to remain relevant. By some estimates, the global clean technology industry could be worth $25 trillion over the next 10 years. As such, it is economically unfeasible to ignore the win-win of investing in clean energy.
The messaging around climate change is often one of doom and gloom. But there is a lot of opportunity around building solutions that spur economic growth and solve the innate problem of climate change. Clean technology can bring hope to the table — providing jobs, cleaner cities and a better quality of life. This is the messaging we need to get better at highlighting.
Why do we need to look at the business side of clean energy?
I think it’s important to understand the business case of any project you’re working on. No matter how attractive a clean energy project sounds, unless it makes financial sense, chances are it’s going to be hard to realize. Ensuring that clean energy projects have a strong financial basis helps the credibility of the industry and the long-term sustainability of the transition to renewable energy. You could say a strong business sense ensures the sustainability of the sustainable industry.
I used this thinking during my MEL degree. It’s a pretty unique program in Canada and possibly the world, since it combines business courses from the MBA program at Sauder School of Business with engineering courses from the Faculty of Applied Science, along with the opportunity to apply this knowledge to real projects. There aren’t many universities that offer this combination.
Why are you focusing on transportation?
During my studies, I began to understand how much the transportation sector is contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s clear that we need to get serious about making the transportation sector more efficient while still allowing people to get around. A great way to do this is through electrified transport, especially if energy sources are already clean.
Through the UBC Sustainability Scholars program, I studied the lifecycle of an electric vehicle compared to a standard gas-powered vehicle. This analysis clearly showed that electric vehicles have a significantly lower environmental impact and are cheaper to operate than internal combustion engine vehicles. This is especially true in B.C., where more than 92 per cent of our power is provided by hydro, a clean fuel source for electric vehicles.
How is your current job helping to create a more sustainable city?
One of the City of Vancouver’s goals is to be powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2050. My focus is on transitioning fleet vehicles to electric, plug-in hybrid or biofuel-powered sources and putting the infrastructure in place to support this.
There are a lot of heavy-duty, city-owned vehicles that accumulate high mileage, such as garbage trucks. Electrifying these vehicles would significantly reduce carbon emissions, leading to cost savings, cleaner air and water, reduced noise pollution and a healthier environment.
How do you think becoming more sustainable will change the way we live in cities?
Transportation in the future is going to look very different to what it is today — car ownership will be less common. This means that improving public transport, access to car-sharing and having more compact communities will be key to how we get around. This will allow people to commute more efficiently, and still allow the occasional road trip while not being obliged to own a vehicle.
What motivates you to keep working for more sustainable cities?
I feel strongly about my obligation to future generations. Given that we have such a narrow window of time to act, being part of the solution motivates me and I feel energized to help achieve the City of Vancouver’s goals for the greater good.
How can we address the effects of climate change?
How do our choices impact our oceans?
How can we cure diabetes?
What new ways can we find to treat the effects of Alzheimer’s disease?
Clean Energy Engineering
How can we make our cities more sustainable?
How can we responsibly grow enough food?
How can Indigenous people better their communities?
Astronomy & Astrophysics
How can studying the universe benefit life on Earth?