Who’s Behind SPARK

Paul Cabaj

A well traveled , balding, father of three, Paul holds a Bachelor of East Asian Studies at the University of Alberta Business and is working on a Masters in Leadership focusing on cooperative decision making (trying to balance with fathering three great children and romancing his wife). He has worked and lived in Asia and South America (including a stint as an owner of a pan-Asian restaurant). Paul has assisted dozens of startup cooperatives and community owned businesses get off the ground, and is currently working on developing vehicles that will make it easier for Albertans to invest in locally owned businesses. Paul was awarded the Canadian National Award of Merit for Cooperative Development in 2011.

“I’m in this because I don’t feel that we in Alberta have really owned up to climate change, that as one of the largest per capita contributors of carbon emissions in the world. I am not anti-oil. I would simply like Alberta to grow up, recognizing that while we can enjoy the benefits of having won the natural resource lottery, we should own up to the responsibility for its side effects. We are a rich province; we can afford to do much more to reduce our emissions. Being conscious about where we shift our power bills, something we do every month anyhow, is one way we can start to assume this responsibility.”

Debra Davidson

Debra is a Professor of Environmental Sociology, based at the University of Alberta for the past 11 years. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, she has been gradually migrating northward, starting with an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from UC Berkeley, a Masters in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a PhD in Sociology from the same institution. Since in Edmonton, she has solidified her local roots with the birth of two girls, now 4 and 7 years of age, who have become a primary motivating force in Debra’s research and teaching in the social dimensions of environmental problems.

“My history in academia has come full circle. Having been inspired by a strong desire for active participation in positive change, my first decade as a professor was spent deep in the halls of the university. While I still love-and continue to embrace the practical merits of-sinking my teeth into the theoretical realms of understanding social change, the call for combining my scholarship with personal engagement in the positive changes taking place around me has become too strong to ignore. I absolutely love being involved in nurturing SPARK into the important vehicle for transition that I know it can be, alongside others who share my enthusiasm for getting off the podium and diving in. I have yet to hear the word “can’t” in any of our Board meetings.”

David Vonesch

David Vonesch is a partner with SkyFire Energy, one of Western Canada’s leading solar contractors. He has a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Alberta and is a CanSIA Certified Photovoltaic Technician. David has experience working on hundreds of solar projects across Canada  including the largest PV system outside of Ontario at the Okanagan College in Penticton, BC. As a volunteer with the nonprofit Light Up The World, he spent three weeks training local technicians and assisting in the installation of six solar electric systems in remote areas of the Peruvian Amazon. Despite regularly leaving home to work on solar projects, Dave remains happily married to his wife Andi.

“Alberta has one of the best solar and wind resources in Canada.  Indeed, a solar PV system here can produce 50% more energy than the same system installed in Germany, the world leader in solar development!  I believe Spark is in a unique position to help make Alberta a true global energy leader.  The co-operative model is deeply engrained in Alberta’s rural roots and has been a proven model for renewable energy development around the world.  Co-operatives have a unique ability to solve problems and I believe they can play a major role in helping to solve mankind’s greatest challenge to date – climate change.”

Mike Kluh

Mike is a Strategy and Operations Consultant based out of Edmonton with an MBA from the University of Alberta and Six Sigma Yellow Belt. While his career has predominately been in the public sector, he has also worked with privately held and publicly traded companies in recent years. Mike has experience in strategic planning and developing and improving business processes to achieve service delivery goals, effective governance and cost reduction. Personally, Mike is an avid traveler, hobbyist musician and outdoors enthusiast. He moved to Edmonton from Baltimore, MD three years ago to earn his MBA and be with his wife, who was born and raised in Alberta. Before joining SPARK, Mike sat on the Executive Board of both the Student and Professional Net Impact Edmonton Chapters, where he served as Treasurer and Marketing lead as well as supported events focusing on social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability.

“I have always been passionate about environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. As someone who has been incredibly lucky throughout my life, I feel compelled to support a healthy community for others. SPARK is an exciting, market-based approach to addressing climate change and positioning Alberta as a leader in renewable energy in addition to its role of supplying the world with fossil fuels.”

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Duncan Kinney

Duncan is an Alberta based writer, editor, producer and community organizer. Currently he is the editor and production manager for Green Energy Futures, an online storytelling project that helps Canadians understand and embrace green energy solutions.

Since starting out as a freelance news photographer he’s become a print/multimedia/online generalist writing magazine stories and blogs and producing video and podcasts on a wide variety of topics. From energy to food to urban development issues his stories have found an audience across Canada and North America. He’s been privileged to volunteer with a variety of community and non-profit groups. He was a founding member of Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, is the the former president of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters and is the former chair of the Oliver Community League’s planning and development committee.

He’s a committed co-operator – he lives in a co-op and serves on its board. He’s a member of Servus credit union. He has run to be a director in the past and is considering running again. He’s also building an earthship in the summer of 2014 and will be updating his blog with pictures and text from the project.

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Sandra McDougall

Sandra has a Masters in Environmental Engineering from the University of Alberta. Her career has been predominantly in the public sector with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development including time as an Industrial Approvals Engineer. Sandra lives with her husband and daughter in Calgary.

“Renewable energy provides some solutions to how we live in this world to minimize our environmental impact. Cooperative values of openness, self responsibility, democracy and social responsibility appeal to me. I am excited to be part of SPARK, a cooperative that provides an opportunity for individuals to participate in Alberta’s deregulated electricity market and contribute renewable energy to the electricity mix in a province rich in renewable resources.”

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Binnu Jeyakumar

Binnu Jeyakumar is a consulting advisor at the Pembina Institute, where she works with different clients and stakeholders on a variety of issues ranging from corporate environmental performance to coalition building for carbon pricing. While she entered the world with a Mechanical Engineering degree, her work has culminated in experience in complex technical and social issues with highly diverse stakeholder objectives, logistical challenges of remote locations, and limited resource availability. Through Engineers Without Borders, she also worked as a consultant to the Ghanaian government, addressing systemic issues with government effectiveness and citizen empowerment. Her interests primarily lie in personal, community and organizational development with the aim of creating more responsible and sustainable societies and businesses.
During her free time, Binnu loves to hike, canoe and go camping as she explores Alberta’s majestic mountains and crystal blue bodies of water.

“It is only in the past decade or so that Alberta’s narrative has become a one-dimensional oil sands based story. Our renewable resources, concentration of great technical knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit can be leveraged to build a low carbon economy.”