Faces of clean energy: A concrete career path

“I love it when I see our customers getting excited about going green.”

In September, Clean Energy Canada will release a report forecasting the size and growth of the clean energy sector in Canada. In the lead up to the report, we talked to some of the people currently employed in the sector to get an idea of what it’s like on the ground.

This exciting field already employs roughly 300,000 Canadians and is growing far quicker than the Canadian economy as a whole. For more information on the current size of the clean energy sector, read our spring report, Missing the Bigger Picture.

Name: Diane Praught
Job title: Director of Technical Services
Works at: CarbonCure Technologies in Nova Scotia
Favourite part of the job: Watching clients become environmental champions
Favourite hobbies: Cycle touring, cooking, and winemaking

When Diane Praught was a child, she used to climb a tree in her back garden on Prince Edward Island and watch the construction of the Confederation Bridge. The huge concrete bridge spans 13 kilometres and links Prince Edward Island to mainland Canada. She reminisces that this was what first kindled her interest in concrete: “From the start, I had a curiosity about the built environment.”

Fast forward a couple of decades and Diane’s passion for the built environment has stuck. Diane works for CarbonCure, a company that aims to reduce the carbon footprint of construction by using recycled CO2 to improve the manufacturing process of concrete. The Nova-Scotia-based company has made the Global Cleantech 100 list of innovative cleantech companies for the last four consecutive years.

The concrete industry is not typically known for its green credentials, as its main ingredient, cement, is one of the biggest CO2-emitting industries globally, but that’s where Diane and CarbonCure come in. The 32-year-old travels across North America working with concrete manufacturers to retrofit plants with the company’s technology. The equipment mixes CO2 captured from industrial emitters into concrete to improve its strength.

No two days are the same in her role as head of the technical services and support department. “My days range anywhere from creating departmental standard operating procedures and training our team, to getting up at 2 a.m. to spend 12 hours field-testing concrete with engineers and quality control personnel,” she says.

Despite being with CarbonCure for seven years, Diane hasn’t always worked in the clean energy sector. After being unsure of what she wanted to do in school, Diane started a biology degree that eventually became environmental engineering technology. After a summer job in a concrete testing lab, Diane realized where her true interests lay: in concrete quality control, where she worked for several years.

But she always felt there was opportunity in the space for cleaner ways of doing things. So when she heard about CarbonCure, it was a match mixed in concrete heaven. “This was my concrete side and my environmental side coming together.”

Diane’s enthusiasm for the concept is shared by many in the industry. “We’ve had a very good reception from the traditional concrete industry,” she says. “As soon as people see what they’re able to accomplish with our technology and our support, they are quick to get on board. We have built confidence within the concrete industry due to positive recommendations from many of the industry’s leaders.”

This aspect of the job is one of the things Diane enjoys most. “I love helping customers become environmental champions in their own way. I love it when I see our customers getting excited about going green. I tell them they can go home and tell their kids or grandkids we made this concrete and saved X amount of CO2 today.”

When not working at CarbonCure, Diane enjoys cycle touring, cooking, and winemaking. She lives in Halifax with her partner, Steve, who she says is very supportive of her busy work schedule. Diane also sits on the board of several non-profits, some of which—no surprise—have an environmental focus.