When Adarsh Mehta (BMath ’98) and Jeffrey Jenner (BMath ’84) began their careers in renewable energy 20 years ago, it was still considered fringe technology by many in the broader energy and finance sectors.
“One of the challenges in the early days was that many people didn’t understand that renewable energy was actually a technology that would rapidly improve with time,” Jenner says. “We were viewed as a tree-hugger movement supported by public policies.”
While she was chair of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, Mehta recalls being heckled by anti-wind naysayers while delivering a keynote speech at Toronto’s Empire Club of Canada. Today renewable energy is the most dominant form of new energy around the globe, producing electrons cheaper than fossil fuel generation. The industry has blossomed into a $300-billion annual investment pursued by pension funds and other investors.
The married couple persevered because they shared an unwavering belief in the promise of renewable energy. Today, they credit their Waterloo math education and a shared commitment to combatting climate change for their success in the renewable energy industry. Jenner is now CEO of Potentia Renewables Inc. while Mehta continues to run their successful consulting business, Jenner Renewable Consulting.
“I found first-year math very challenging and I overcame it through a lot of hard work and encouragement from tutors,” Mehta says. “It made me realize that if I can do this – and do it well enough to get into graduate school – then I can do anything, including competing in a male-dominated energy industry.”
Supporting the next generation of climate activists
These days, the couple’s commitment to creating a better, greener world extends far beyond their work, touching every aspect of their life together as they strive to minimize their environmental footprint in leisure activities, transportation choices and diet (they are vegans). Last year, the whole family participated in the Global Climate March in Toronto. Their seven-year-old daughter Milaan made her own sign and waved it proudly from a perch on Jenner’s shoulders, winning thumbs-up and cheers from fellow marchers.
Supporting the next generation of climate activists is extremely important to Mehta and Jenner. In December 2019, they created the Mehta-Jenner Climate Change Mitigation Graduate Scholarships at the University of Waterloo. Two scholarships are awarded annually for five years to female graduate students in the Faculty of Mathematics who are using their research to address the environment and climate change.
This year, Jenner and Mehta had the opportunity to meet the first two scholarship recipients and were impressed with their passion, humility and intelligence. They left the meeting feeling optimistic about the future. “It gave me a renewed hope that there are very smart people working hard to solve important and pressing problems in the world,” Mehta says.