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Meet Bob and Jessie, IESO research fellows

IESO research fellows will explore and develop solutions to urban energy challenges
By: Deborah Hernandez
February 23, 2015

Bob Singh and Jessie Ma.

 (PDF file) Three research fellows will be working at the Centre for Urban Energy (opens in new window)  for the next three years in a partnership with the IESO, one of the three founding sponsors of CUE.

Birendra (Bob) Singh, who was previously a manager at Hydro One Networks, will explore the integration of urban and energy planning. Jessie Ma, a business development advisor at Hydro One Networks, will investigate the integrated delivery of electricity, gas and water conservation. And visiting research fellow Reza Ghaffari, who was awarded a PhD from Ryerson last September, will conduct research on energy storage technologies.

We spoke to Jessie and Bob about their research and how working here has been like so far.

Q: What were your first impressions of CUE?

Jessie: It’s a very experimental, innovative and creative space. I really like that atmosphere. There are a lot of very smart, hopeful people looking at how we can improve how we use energy in urban areas. They’re constantly looking at the next big thing, like what are the things we can do?

Bob: There are a lot of interesting things going on here, and one way or another, they all tie in with the delivery of energy. Whether it is the smart grid or micro-grid, this is the way that urban energy supply systems are heading.

Q: What research are you working on while you are here?

Jessie: Since my research is in conservation, I’m really looking forward to finding new ways in delivering conservation and demand management programs.

Bob: One of the things I’m looking at is the integration of urban development and energy development. How do you make them work effectively? How do you optimize energy usage in an urban environment? The load demand is increasing on the infrastructure. In certain parts of the city, you can see that the infrastructure might not be able to meet the need. So what do you do? That’s what I’m looking at – how best to integrate the energy needs of urban areas.

Q: How can this research apply to the City of Toronto?

Jessie: It involves seeing how we can better engage consumers in a way to reduce how much energy we use – in a way that has social, environmental and economic benefits.

Bob: More and more people are moving into urban areas. That means that the population density is ever increasing. Toronto is a great example of this but this is not only happening in Canada. You see all these high-rises being built and that’s putting pressure on the infrastructure. The electrical supply, gas supply, water supply – all these infrastructure pieces are being stressed to the limit basically. Space has always been a concern in urban environments. When space is at a premium, you cannot expand. Then the challenge is how do you make the best use of the existing infrastructure – which you must – and can you get more out of it than what it’s been designed for?

Q: What makes you excited to be working at CUE in the upcoming months?

Jessie: I like that this is a space where we can be very forward-looking and build on each other’s ideas. You can’t really do that in isolation so it’s great to be part of a community where we can build upon each other and encourage each other.

Bob: It’s enjoyable to be able to work on a variety of issues and problems. They all resonate well with me because I have well over 30 years of experience with four different utility companies. I have dealt with these problems in real life and I also know what’s coming. So it’s interesting for me with my background. I enjoy tackling problems that are on the horizon now and in the years to come.

Deborah Hernandez is a fourth-year Journalism student at Ryerson University.

"There are a lot of very smart, hopeful people looking at how we can improve how we use energy in urban areas."