Living in beautiful places like Boulder, Colorado and Vancouver has been a priority for Jeff Giffin. Helping to ensure the planet’s beautiful places via wise energy is a priority for his future.

One of 25 students currently enrolled in the new Master of Clean Energy Engineering program at UBC, Giffin sought out the program because of its uniqueness--the only one of its kind in Canada.

“The timing of the program is right. If we’re going to take care of this planet and ensure it for future generations, we’ve got to work on it now. A lot of people from various angles must work to find clean energy solutions,” says Giffin.

Developing alternative energy solutions

Prior to entering the program, Giffin was working full-time for UBC Building Operations, investigating ways to utilize alternative energy sources for the university, helping further UBC's position as a leader in sustainability. Currently balancing his studies and continuing his job part-time, he’s hooked on using his new knowledge to make a difference.

Initially from the master’s program Giffin expected to gain a broader understanding of the issues influencing alternative energy solutions and a worldly perspective of energy systems.

“I’ve learned so far, there is no one solution. And contrary to my belief upon entering the program, we may not need to wean cold turkey from fossil fuels. There are sustainable options that include oil, natural gas and even coal.”

Exceeding his initial expectations, the Master’s in Clean Energy Engineering has provided him with advanced knowledge of scientific principles and a greater understanding of the human role in clean energy decision-making.

Applying scientific principles

Giffin cites exergy—the quality of energy, and quantifies the useful work that may be done by a certain quantity of energy—as one of the most valuable concepts he’s gained thus far.

He explains that in the Western world, most humans over-consume energy. Our current methods could be improved by up to 85 per cent. For example, the amount of energy needed to move a single person from point A to point B could be provided by a bicycle rather than a ½ ton pick-up.

“Currently the rate of over-consuming is akin to an individual driving an 18-wheeler to work, we simply do not need that much power to get where we’re going,” says Giffin.

Recognizing human influences

In addition to the applied science lessons of the program, Giffin cites the human component to be equally valuable. Aside from the fact that his peers provide a network of like-minded people dedicated to clean energy solutions, Giffin appreciates more fully that politics and human behaviour intertwine in decision making.

“It’s impossible to uncouple the science from the people in developing clean energy solutions,” he says. “That’s why this program is so important and so timely. Potential solutions aren’t adopted until we are educated that what we have done in the past isn’t optimal. And only when the reason is driven by incentive does true change occur.”

Giffin foresees the master’s degree will provide him flexibility and career advancement while he works towards developing solutions for clean energy engineering.

“I want to continue living in beautiful places and help the earth maintain as much of its beauty as possible,” says Giffin. “A unique degree like this focusing on engineering solutions for a challenge that faces every region of the world creates the opportunity for me to work anywhere and truly make a difference towards a sustainable future.”

Master's of Engineering in Clean Energy

The Clean Energy master’s program is intended for graduates from any branch of engineering (or related degree or experience) with an interest in advanced training related to energy conservation and environmentally-advantageous energy technologies, able to help meet the global need for energy while reducing the release of greenhouse gases, acid gases and other pollutants.

Special attention is devoted to sustainable energy sources such as biomass, solar, wind and small-scale hydro, as well as to energy conservation and methods for comparing and evaluating alternative energy scenarios.

Energy demand and non-technical aspects of clean energy is addressed in the program as well as energy supply technologies. Graduates of the program are expected to gain training that will make them useful to a wide range of employers considering or adopting new forms of energy or improving their practices with respect to energy.

By ErinRose Handy, Communications Manager, Faculty of Applied Science