The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, visited Polytechnique Montréal on January 18, 2018, and met with the team at the Institut de l’énergie Trottier.

A tour lasting one-and-a-half hour had been organized to provide an overview of projects currently under way. Accompanied by Benoît Desforges, a Program Manager with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Minister McKenna showed great interest in the solutions to energy challenges being studied by Institut-affiliated researchers and students.

A stop in the laboratory run by Professor Sébastien Francoeur of Polytechnique Montréal’s Department of Engineering Physics provided a close-up look at work to characterize and optimize 2D black phosphorus, a material with properties that show enormous potential for increasing the efficiency of solar panels.

Alaric Bergeron, a PhD student in Engineering Physics, explained the goals of the project in this video shot by Minister McKenna and posted to her Twitter account.

The second research project presented to the Minister is targeting design of geothermal systems for standing-column wells. Gabrielle Beaudry, a PhD student in the Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering, gave a broad outline of the work, highlighting the benefits of this technology, which draws groundwater directly for heat exchange. The resulting energy is clean and renewable, and can be used for heating and ventilation purposes.

Next, Professor Michaël Kummert of the Department of Mechanical Engineering explained his vision of redefined approaches to urban development, focused on construction of sustainable neighbourhoods. His research project is targeting improved energy efficiency in buildings through development of fourth-generation district heating (4GDH) networks. The idea is to develop a heat sharing and recovery system that is efficient, cost-effective and ethical. The system would take the form of community heating powered in part by waste heat from surrounding activities.

The final word went to a group of undergraduate students in Mechanical Engineering, who presented their integrated project on energy-efficient housing for Nordic climates. Accompanied by colleagues from Université de Montréal and HEC Montréal who are collaborating on this multidisciplinary project, the students explained how they are working on dwelling concepts adapted from the traditional Inuit way of life. While the Polytechnique students are applying their knowledge of sustainable building methods, social aspects are also taken into account in their planning approach: the proposed living spaces are being designed to ensure that traditional activities run smoothly. The project, which is receiving financial support from the Institute, is examining solutions to the housing crisis in Nunavik, from of sustainable development perspective.

The visit concluded with a conversation between Minister McKenna and Louis Beaumier and Normand Mousseau, respectively Executive Director and Academic Director of the Institute, on the importance of modelling in addressing energy challenges. As both a means of understanding changes as they happen and a prospective tool for decision-makers, modelling, the directors explained, must play a key role in any greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy. Models of energy systems enable exploration and quantifying of possible future energy solutions, study of the efficiency of political options, and recommendations to various regions on the best avenues to follow in their energy transformation processes. Citing the conclusions of the white paper published by the Institute in September 2017, the pair advocated for the establishment of a permanent initiative for the modelling of Canadian energy systems.

The Institut de l’énergie Trottier team members said they were honoured by Minister McKenna’s visit, and praised her active listening, openness and enthusiasm in response to the descriptions of the various projects and issues.