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"It was one of the best decisions I have ever made," he says.
A philosophy and environment graduate, Couture pursued a
number of environmental initiatives at Mount Allison. Along
with local school presentations through the Environmental
Society, he was also awarded two grants through Leadership
Mount Allison for a Sackville Windmill Project, which saw a
wind turbine installed on the roof of Marshview Middle School.
This project marked Couture's first significant foray into the
world of renewable energy.
"Mount Allison definitely helped shape my thinking on the
importance of renewable energy and how it really is a question
of when, not whether, we move in that direction," says Couture.
"The Sackville Windmill Project was the first initiative where
I really put that thinking into practice."
After graduating from Mount Allison he travelled to Greece to
teach for the summer. After three months he decided he wanted to
be closer to home. He applied for a job as an Energy and Climate
Researcher with the Conservation Council of new Brunswick
(CCnB) in his hometown of Fredericton, nB. After interviewing
from Athens, he flew home 10 days later to take the job.
Through his work at CCnB he met Yves Gagnon, considered
a leading authority on wind power in Canada and professor
at l'Université de Moncton (UdeM). He was offered the
opportunity to undertake a two-year Master's in Energy and Envi-
ronmental Policy, which he completed in one year.
During this time Couture received a prestigious Fulbright
Scholarship to study in the U.S. With the scholarship only covering
a portion of tuition, he had to figure out a creative way to utilize it.
"It is important to never let a good opportunity go to waste and
I really had to think about this one and do a little bit of lateral
thinking to find a solution," he says.
He contacted the national Renewable Energy Lab (nREL)
in Colorado asking if they would host a Fulbright Scholar.
They agreed -- to his knowledge this is the first time this has
ever happened.
In Couture's work at UdeM he researched how to develop wind
power on a community basis. Building upon a concept he encoun-
tered while at Mount Allison, and researched further while at the
Conservation Council, he delved into what has since become the
most widely used policy around the world to encourage renewable
energy -- feed-in tariffs.
The policy offers a fixed price, or tariff, to citizens, farmers,
business owners, and investors for feeding electricity generated
from renewable energy sources into the grid.
"The basic idea is that it enables anyone who wants to invest in
renewable energy to know what price they are going to get, and
for how long. The key to moving forward on a sustainable energy
future is to make renewable energy profitable by providing a price
that is sufficient for citizens and businesses to make a return on
their investment."
It was this research that would provide the framework for his work
at nREL. The report he produced from this research is now used by
policymakers worldwide in designing feed-in tariff policies.
Before the end of his year-long contract, Couture received a call
that altered the course of his life again. His mother was very ill.
"I remember very lucidly my mother calling in early April telling
me she didn't know how long she had to live. I left Colorado a
week later."
When the situation stabilized with his mother, he took on an
18-month contract with the nREL working from Fredericton
and officially opened his own consulting company, E3 Analytics,
to formalize his work with the Lab.
14 / Summer 2011 / RECORD