Renewable energy advocate Julia Zeeman is helping create energy independent communities.

Photo from Julia Zeeman.

Photo from Julia Zeeman.

AGE: 24
HOMETOWN: Aurora, Ontario

Not many people think of renewable energy or environmental protection as issues of equality, but that is where our number nine environmentalist, Julia Zeeman’s, passion originated.

Empowered by her family’s strength and driven by her desire to create a more egalitarian future, Julia has contributed to a number of community energy projects. One that is particularly close to her heart is the work she has been a part of on Pelee Island in Ontario. The energy grid that exists in this remote community is notoriously unreliable, but Julia has helped promote the idea of community power on Pelee Island. The community recently held its first public consultation and, if plans proceed, could become Ontario’s first energy independent community.

Community Power refers to community-owned renewable energy projects developed and controlled, in part or in full, by local residents. Community power provides an opportunity for residents to contribute to the expansion of clean energy infrastructure. This represents a fundamental shift away from the conventional energy systems characterized by centralized planning, polluting resources and driven by corporate ownership. The fundamental basis of community power is ownership by local residents, democratic governance and community economic development through local jobs and investment.

This work is echoed in the three renewable energy co-operatives that Julia has worked with in the early stages of her career: the Federation of Community Powered Co-operatives of Ontario, TREC Renewable Energy Co-op, and the Sustainable Ontario Community Energy Co-op. She has also worked closely with Studio [Y] at the MaRS Discovery District, Ontario’s largest innovation hub. Her work with Studio [Y] includes a multimedia campaign meant to get young people engaged with Earth Day.

Once she completes the final year of her master’s work, Julia hopes to go to work for a consulting firm working in the renewable energy sector where she can be involved with as many community energy projects as possible. Julia hopes to take the lessons she learns working at the community level and promote change by working within a major energy utility. Citing the global context of a changing energy market and the fact that utilities have adapted little over the past several decades, Julia hopes to play a part in the transition to clean energy and a brighter future.

Given her level of commitment to and deep involvement with the clean energy sector it is easy to understand why Julia received over a dozen nominations to appear on our Top 25 list. Her clear focus and the motivation that underlies it make her a strong addition to the ranks of up-and-coming young leaders.

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