Oct. 27, 2022

Grad nurtures Alberta's shift to wind and solar energy

2022 Top 40 Under 40: Nagwan Al-Guneid, BA’05 (Communication Studies), MSc’15 (Sustainable Energy Development), Indigenous Relations Training Program (2015); director, Business Renewables Centre Canada
Nagwan Al-Guneid
Nagwan Al-Guneid Avenue Magazine

Working at the intersection of energy and the environment, Nagwan Al-Guneid maintains there is no easy answer — or just one solution — to a greener future. As director of Business Renewables Centre Canada, an educational platform that is an initiative of the Pembina Institute, her job is to accelerate large-scale wind and solar projects in Alberta. With a focus on helping corporations and public institutions learn how to procure renewables through power purchase agreements (PPAs), the goal is to produce long-term stable rates by removing the utility company in the middle. Al-Guneid explains that the “more renewables we have, the more we can reduce emissions from Alberta’s electricity grid. We need to view the energy system as a whole and we need to realize we’ll always need energy . . . that said, now is exactly the time to scale up our efforts to lower emissions.” By 2023, the PPA market in Alberta will contribute $3.75 billion in renewable construction, creating 4,500 jobs.

What do you miss about student life?

So many things — from the focus on learning for the sake of gaining new knowledge to chilling with friends at Mac Hall, as well as the time I had to play soccer and volleyball at intramurals on campus.

Do you remember any outstanding professors?

Sadly, three of them are now deceased: Dr. Margo Husby-Scheelar, Department of Humanities/Communications, who had the ability to make every student feel seen and included. I loved the poetry and English literature classes I took with Dr. Victor Ramraj of English Dept. He also challenged us to be better writers and critical thinkers. And Dr. David Lertzman, with whom I took a master’s course in Sustainability/Indigenous Knowledge — he was such a powerful speaker who stressed the importance of building relationships with Indigenous people and learning from them how to advance sustainability and preserve the environment. 

Then, there’s also Dr. William Holden, who’s now in Geography. I took microeconomics and macroeconomics with him and I will never forget his high-energy lectures and the fact that he always welcomed debates and discussions. I never missed a single class.

My International Law course with Dr. James Keeley was another all-star. The assignments and exams made every brain cell work. He challenged us to be better critical thinkers.

What has been your biggest career highlight?

Creating a scholarship program in Yemen (part of a community investment program in an energy company) that allowed a more equitable access to better education for high school graduates from remote areas in the country.

If someone wants to learn more about traditional ways of connecting, what advice can you give them?

I’d say leave your phone and gadgets at home and go out and meet people. If you can’t do that, then put your phone on silent and be present in conversations and gatherings. Also, spend time with the elders you know and soak in their wisdom.

What is the most satisfying thing about your job?

Working with subject-matter experts and making an impact in addressing the climate crisis.

If you were to go back to school, what would you take?


What do you wish you knew more about?

Sustainable finance.

What are your biggest regrets?

Not doing an internship or an exchange abroad during my undergraduate degree.

Any advice for students or new grads? 

Get out of your bubble, get out of your comfort zone and volunteer more.

When you are not working, what do you do? 

I bike with my children and enjoy Calgary’s parks and the nearby mountains and I love trying out a new restaurant and travelling.

With files from Avenue Magazine.

Meet the entire 2022 cohort of Top 40 Under 40 honourees at Avenue Magazine.