Meet our Energy Trailblazer: Kirk Johnson
President, Eco-Efficiency Consulting
President of Eco-Efficiency Consulting, Kirk Johnson has seen and done it all when it comes to energy efficiency-focused building upgrades. His career path has included deep retrofits in schools, apartments, and big office towers, as well as managing sustainability programs and projects in the public and private sector. Kirk works with the private and public sector partners, helping Canadian businesses, home-owners, and renters to reduce GHG emissions by saving money and energy. He does so developing & delivering Market Transformation programs such as:
- Bringing the EPA ENERGY STAR Multifamily High-Rise program to Canada and designing the ECCC-funded St. James Town RSI Climate Action Ambassador
- Leading Energy Efficiency provincial and municipal incentives like Ontario’s High Performance New Construction and Toronto’s Better Buildings Partnership retrofit incentive programs;
- Developing Community Energy Plans, Tower Renewal, and Toronto Green Standard elements (Energy Section) at City of Toronto.
- Developing ISED-funded Upskilling Industry Programs across Ontario.
- Creating the NRCan-Funded Home Efficiency Animator Training (HEAT) program for NGOs and a Tableau Data Analytics course for Humber College
“Creating Energy Efficiency (e²) programs are cool to me. I have had the privilege and responsibility leading energy performance projects, business intelligence/data visualization platforms, capacity-building, workforce development programs, and several provincial/municipal sustainability incentive portfolios. Now, I mostly do market transformation programs and rapid upskilling programs. But for me it’s all about applying an Agile Development lens.”
This work – always with industry partners – is funded by big agencies such as the City of Toronto, Natural Resources Canada, ISED, real estate industry associations, and academic institutions. While no day is the same, Kirk’s typical cleantech market transformation work includes some or all of these six (6) flows:
- Stakeholder Engagement: On an average day, there is a lot of stakeholder engagement that happens on the programs you’re developing. “There’s usually a chunk of time spent attending stakeholder and expert advisory sessions listening to either community, business, technical or policy experts share their insights.”
- Networking: Next, Kirk stays abreast on technical, policy, industry, or financial cleantech trends via IRL coffees, meetings with colleagues, and online TEAMS meetings. Attending, moderating, or speaking at these industry events brings a ton of value and creates new connections. “I actually love those informative yet casual events with lots of interaction – where the connections just spark and ideas build after a great session.”
- Program Development: His third focus area is program development. “I like creating and getting projects funded not just talking about things that should happen. Whether it’s workforce upskilling, decarbonization programs, or energy-efficient building standards, I enjoy activating a program that delivers real outcomes to address a market gap.,” shares Kirk.
- Program Design: Fourth, Kirk focuses on the actual design. “If there’s not a structure, and a roadmap, then we’re all just throwing stuff against the wall. Wherever I’m doing work that’s in concert with other people, or for a specific outcome, I spend a lot of time asking ‘What is the elegant design in this? Where’s the sweet spot for traction?’”
- Research & Analytics: Kirk stays current and aware of what’s being done in other cities, provinces, and countries. His background in data visualization allows him to blend diverse datasets and create new evidenced based insights to complement academic and market research.
- Program Delivery: The last flow is Program Delivery, where Kirk delivers projects and manages implementation to create positive outcomes and achieve long term energy efficiency impacts. “Energy Efficiency (e²) is not just about insulation or heat pumps; it is basically the driving force behind decarbonizing and electrifying the built environment that also brings great economic and community benefits. I’m good with that.”
Kirk attributes his success with this to his ability to help people find a middle ground. Before switching from developing private-sector projects to designing market transformation programs, Kirk lived out his dream of producing a feature film. He partnered with a great director and actors (e.g. Colin Mochrie) to make a movie called Expecting which won film festival audience awards/jury prizes at major film festivals and got distribution. During its making, he learned to ‘Find that sweet spot where the Director is right, and the Producer is not wrong’. Kirk believes this is his secret sauce –identifying and migrating people towards that safe happy ground where agreement is found, and their needs are met. From there, it’s easier to scale towards something better and bigger so much faster.
Kirk is most proud of his work when people from outside the energy efficiency field make it into a career. “It’s exciting to create programs helping diverse communities get into Energy Efficiency. Seeing mid-career professionals upskill and organizations deliver low carbon projects is a joy!”
For people considering entering what he calls the (e²) sector [Energy Efficiency], Kirk recommends they explore and find their ‘Ikigai’ – Japanese for your ‘Reason to Get Out of Bed. “If you see something in the world that drives you, seek and find the core Ikigai for that. ‘Rebuilding a Better World Faster’ is my Ikigai and it inspires me from Sunrise to Sunset.”
Kirk’s Career Journey
Kirk obtained an Engineering degree from McMaster University.
Kirk obtained certification in Agile Project Management and Low Carbon Retrofits.
Kirk started as Manager of Conservation Program Design for OPA, became the Portfolio Development Manager at the City of Toronto, and founded his own company Eco-Efficiency Consulting.
Advice on entering the energy efficiency sector
As a female and a Black female, there are always going to be obstacles. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t face them head-on. I like a challenge. I welcome it, actually. It motivates me. So for any women out there who are BIPOC or women in general, we are dominating a very male-induced industry.
Energy Efficiency (e²) employers care about your communication, engagement, and PM chops as much as your hard technical/business talents. So, work on building your hard and soft skills.
The great thing is that with this sector, there is such a need for workers that they are offering courses to everyone. That’s really opening up for people. You don’t need to go back to school necessarily. Go do a degree or diploma. You can take like little courses at a time to upskill yourself and make yourself relevant.