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As part of a series highlighting the work of young people in addressing the climate crisis, writer Patricia Lane interviews Kelsey Brasil, who manages Efficiency Canada’s career hub.

Kelsey Brasil

The cheapest, cleanest energy on Earth is the energy we don’t use. Kelsey Brasil, Efficiency Canada’s career hub manager, wants us to remember this as we transition to a clean economy. She sees energy efficiency as an underused resource, ready to create good jobs close to home while saving us money, improving our health and reducing our emissions.

Kelsey Brasil as a Green Schools Nova Scotia engagement officer teaches energy efficiency to a Grade 1 French class at John W. MacLeod - Fleming Tower Elementary. Photo by Kate Whalen

Tell us about your work.

Efficiency Canada — housed at Carleton University’s Sustainable Energy Research Centre — is the national voice for a future Canada that maximizes energy efficiency to its fullest potential. If we stopped wasting energy, we could meet up to 30 per cent of our Paris Agreement targets and create hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs, making our air and water cleaner, our homes safer and cosier, and our planet healthier.

How do you help?

We educate, motivate and facilitate. Our report published with Clean Energy Canada, Less Is More, shows strong energy-efficiency policies and programs can save Canadians hundreds of dollars in energy costs and create 118,000 jobs each year for the next 10 years. We collect data on all provinces and provide decision-makers with a “scorecard” so they can benchmark where they stand and engage in friendly competition in the race for energy efficiency and good jobs. My role is setting up an energy efficiency career hub to provide information about jobs, training opportunities and available workers to fill those jobs. Around 500,000 Canadian workers already work in this sector and hundreds of new jobs come available every day. This sector has opportunities for all, especially women who may not have seen trades work as their calling, workers transitioning from carbon-intensive sectors with a variety of transferable skills, or people who have chosen alternative lower-paid work to be closer to home. We want to help people to find well-paid, rewarding work in this sector.

What draws you to this work?

The best energy is energy we never use, says Kelsey Brasil, Efficiency Canada’s career hub manager. #CleanEnergy #Climate #ClimateAction #ClimateJustice

When people save money from lower energy bills, it can make a huge difference. A working family might be able to stay in their home because they had some help installing insulation or solar panels or a heat pump. A community centre could use the money it saves from reduced energy costs to offer more programs. A business might spend the money it saves to provide paid sick days for its workforce. The workers who make all this happen are well-paid and can stay close to home.

Is there something about the way you were raised that brought you to this job?

I was always a bit of an advocate for the environment. In first grade, I dressed up as “Captain Cleanwater” and gave a talk to my whole elementary school about water conservation and protection. My parents expected my sisters and I would choose a way to make the world better, and they supported us. My mother taught us the importance of taking care of our things and each other and making sure we could pay it forward. I feel lucky that I learned as a kid that my actions have an impact.

Kelsey Brasil in the first grade advocating for water conservation to her elementary school — École Pine Grove School. Photo by Cathy Brasil

What keeps you awake at night?

We are in a climate emergency. I worry about the tight timelines we have to engage enough people to move decision-makers into acting fast enough. The Canadian public understands the importance of acting to create a safer, cleaner world, but we need to equip people with the skills to keep our decision-makers accountable.

What gives you hope?

I think of advocacy as a muscle. In my previous job at Green Schools Nova Scotia, I taught energy efficiency to elementary school students and supported high school students to work alongside industry professionals to design a net-zero vision for the province. It was inspiring to see how quickly they understood they could begin making progress immediately. If we can get people even to a webinar or to write a letter or talk to their parents, that is a start. Each time we take action, we get stronger.

Do you have any advice for other young people?

Stay curious and ask questions. If you want a meaningful, well-paying job, there is room for you in this sector. Don’t assume that because of your gender or your particular talent, you are not welcome. We need everyone. Explore! You can always just change your mind.

What would you like to say to older people?

Every generation has a seriously important contribution to make. Complex issues require everyone at the table to design innovative solutions. Your voice matters, and so do the voices of others.

Kelsey Brasil laughing with her two sisters, Nikki, and Jessica. Photo by Cathy Brasil