Rock Star Merran Smith: Creating a cleaner tomorrow

Merran Smith was recently appointed to co-chair the Climate Solutions council

A woman (Merran Smith) on a bike smiling as she waits at the side of a road

When Merran Smith isn't promoting sustainability at work, she's outside enjoying Vancouver Island. — Photo courtesy Clean Energy Canada

Merran Smith has always been interested in finding ways for humans to live in harmony with our planet. It’s a deeply rooted value that acted as the driving force behind her career through all its twists and turns. Smith’s work hasn’t always been about clean energy. At one point, she travelled to create educational documentaries and advocate for sustainability. Now, she is the executive director of Clean Energy Canada and co-chair of the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council in British Columbia.

She’s passed her respect for our environment on to her family.

“We love to do things that re-energize us,” she said.

They spend their free time exploring Vancouver Island: hiking, kayaking and surfing. Exploring new ideas through the eyes of her 10-year-old twins inspires her work as well.

“They have some cool perspectives," Smith said. For them, doing things in a way that is better for the environment is clearly a top priority. They don’t want to live in a world where the climate is changing dramatically.”

Guiding communities through change

Smith found her place in this sector by reflecting on her core values.

“I learned that my passion wasn’t waging battles to protect the environment but creating solutions,” she said. She wanted to claim a seat at the discussion table and listen to other perspectives.

“There’s the Einstein quote: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’ ” Smith said. She wants to correct the problems resulting from how we extract and use energy by using innovation to solve them. 

Clean Energy Canada is a think-tank project of Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. The team researches and provides information about clean energy solutions to Canadian communities, energy companies and the government, under the guidance of Merran Smith. Through her recent appointment as co-chair for the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council in British Columbia, she will have another opportunity to lead the necessary change.

One of the advisory council’s focus areas is guiding communities through the transition. “I think there’s an opportunity here to create a model for the transition so that no workers and communities are left behind,” she said. “We need to speak more to the implications for workers and how communities will deal with the transition.” It is possible to create transition plans for workers, and give support to communities. Through the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council, Merran hopes to help British Columbia become a leader within Canada on similar initiatives.

The future is now

When Merran talks about sustainability and transitioning to clean energy, she isn’t referring to the future.

“The future is now,” she said. “This energy transition is happening already. We aren’t just talking about where we could go but where we are going and how to get there faster.” The transition involves adopting better energy systems, which result in a better quality of life.

Another message Smith stresses is the opportunities sustainability provides. “This energy transition is about gain, not pain. It’s about opportunities. In Canada, we are well positioned to excel. We are leaders in clean electricity,” she said. Canada is in an ideal position in terms of innovation, workforce intelligence and resources.

“There are a lot of metals and minerals that are needed for this transition, and Canada has a lot of those,” Smith said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to shift to cleaner energy.”

Looking forward, Smith is excited to help lead British Columbia through the clean energy transition. “We are in a global energy transition to cleaner systems. With that transition comes lots of challenges,” she said. She is eager to take on these challenges, listen to the perspectives of others, innovate and advise. “The solutions are not in the tool kit we were given. We need to have innovation to create new things.”

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