30 May 2022 |
Research article |
Sustainable Development, the Circular Economy and Environmental Issues
Sustainable Degrowth, the Only Viable Option for this Energy Expert
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Even though Daniel Rousse champions sustainable degrowth to mitigate the impacts of human activity on the environment and on the biosphere’s species, he himself does not seem to be scaling down. This energy specialist, a self-proclaimed research junkie, thrives on multidisciplinary projects that have visible and measurable impacts.
“What I most like to do is to train people who will become renewable energy specialists who will propose solutions that will take into account long-term social and environmental impacts,” explains the professor of Mechanical Engineering at ÉTS.
Daniel Rousse believes that sustainable degrowth is the only viable option to protect future generations and mitigate human impact on the earth’s ecosystems. “Sustainable development as advocated by some is about choosing how fast we saw through the branch we are sitting on. In this sense, the word ‘development’ is incompatible with ‘sustainability.’ He adds, ‘Infinite growth in a finite system is downright impossible. In a flourishing economy, it could equate to “progress”, but in a living organism it becomes a cancer.’
Understanding and Taking Action
Taking into account the global impact of collective action on ecosystems is clearly among the professor’s most cherished values. Case in point, he encourages his teams to find ways to reduce the footprint of systems and equipment on ecosystems by reusing energy that would otherwise be irretrievably lost. ‘It’s simply a matter of maximizing the efficiency of the systems and equipment we need,’ he says.
Daniel Rousse’s research projects reflect his interests, and they are varied. For example, he is working with the City of Saint-Hyacinthe to optimize the biomethanization process of organic materials and increase biogas production. “Without this optimization, methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, dissipates into the atmosphere,” says Daniel Rousse. The biogas produced is then reinjected into the Energir network, helping to reduce its gas imports from fossil sources.
Professor Rousse is also the Senior Scientific Advisor – New Products, for Energie Solutions Air (ESA), a company he founded in 2010.
ESA locally manufactures air heat exchangers with significant environmental benefits: each exchanger removes the equivalent of 3 to 7 combustion vehicle emissions per year from roads in Canada and the United States.
Professor Rousse is also part of a consortium of researchers from several Quebec universities set up to help the mining industry reduce the environmental impact of its activities in northern Quebec.
In collaboration with Raglan Mine, MISA and Hatch, his research team is working to reduce the mine’s current diesel consumption to zero while providing 20 MW of continuous electrical power using wind turbines and innovative storage.
Daniel Rousse is also focused on community development. One of his latest projects involves pumping water with photovoltaic solar panels, a project that will provide power to villages deprived of running water and electricity. His research partners are located in Burkina Faso, Togo, Senegal, and Ecuador. He feels it is essential to involve people in a process that will lead to the creation of a pumping system because communities are required, as part of the decision-making process, to assess their water consumption and optimize it in relation to production in order to reduce the risk of a shortage during the year.
He also sees this as a great opportunity to raise awareness among citizens on the importance of using this resource properly: “This is the main pitfall: if after a year, there is no specific training, habits are formed, and water consumption increases by 10% to 15%. The initial assessment is no longer valid.”
On the Importance of Building Relationships
What turns him on in research? “I prefer to share, to popularize, to create links, to make people think and to participate in collective thinking than to publish in academic journals with target audiences that are both restricted and already convinced of the usefulness of the research. I also like to create and carry out projects in several fields so that innovation is born from these intersecting interests.”
His penchant for multidisciplinarity has led him to collaborate with colleagues from various backgrounds, including physicians, biologists, and chemists to name a few. These collaborations have allowed him to study the thermal loss of geese during their migration between Cap Tourmente and Ellesmere Island, create a new type of mattress cover to improve comfort for hospitalized patients, and implement a thermal regulation system at Mont-Mégantic.
Because of these multifaceted interests, Professor Rousseau was able to think about energy issues from the perspective of sustainable degrowth, energy sobriety and the circular economy. His desire to work on tangible and industrial research applications led him naturally to ÉTS.
Passion is Paramount
Although he deplores the time that researchers must now devote to administrative formalities of all kinds, Daniel Rousse is still as driven by research as he was when he started. And that’s what he wishes for his young students. “You have to deeply love what you do.” And stay away from lucrative contracts that might close other doors for the sake of a few extra dollars. “Follow your instincts. This way you can innovate and make a meaningful contribution.”