Faces of clean energy: Making the transit transition

“Throughout the day, I try to find new ways to solve challenges and develop solutions related to electrical component development.”

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: Kate Parnala
Job title: Manufacturing Engineering Technologist
Works at: New Flyer Industries Canada ULC (New Flyer)
Favourite part of the job: Learning something new every day
Favourite hobbies: Enjoying a zero-waste lifestyle and taking part in charity runs

Most everyone has ridden a bus at some point in their life. Maybe you rode one today. And if you rode that bus in Canada, or even North America, there’s a good chance it was made by Winnipeg-based New Flyer.

It’s also possible that part of the bus completion was assisted by Kate Parnala.

Kate is a manufacturing engineering technologist with New Flyer working on the production of electrical components that control the operation of some of New Flyer’s buses.

Kate has worked for New Flyer for six years at its manufacturing facility in Winnipeg. After completing a degree in engineering in the Philippines, she moved to Canada eight years ago to begin her Canadian clean energy career. 

New Flyer, a subsidiary of NFI Group, is the largest bus manufacturer in North America, employing 1,300 people in Canada who manufacture transit buses with a variety of engine types, including a zero-emission battery-electric bus, the Xcelsior CHARGE. Globally, NFI employs 8,900 people and supports 105,0000 buses and coaches in service around the world.

And because buses—especially electric ones—cut Canada’s carbon pollution by getting people out of their cars, New Flyer is one of the biggest employers in Canada’s clean energy sector.

With more and more electric buses hitting the roads in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, personal transport is getting cleaner all the time. Combine that with a Canada-wide target to make the electricity grid—which charges electric buses—90% non-emitting by 2030 up from roughly 81% today, and getting around town will soon be cleaner than ever. 

And while increasing transit use, particularly electric transit, cuts pollution, it also creates more Canadian jobs—like Kate’s. Her working day starts with meetings to ensure operational metrics are achieved daily, and her job involves a lot of problem-solving and continuous improvement. Kate is focused on finding safer and more environmentally friendly ways to manufacture buses.

“Throughout the day, I try to find new ways to solve challenges and develop solutions related to electrical component development, pursuing an overall goal to build an advanced and eco-friendly bus,” she says.

There are many things she loves about her job: “I like learning something new each day. All the things I learn at work help me grow in every area of my life. I also have an inspiring and very supportive team.” 

When not helping build increasingly clean buses for Canadian and North American roads, Kate takes her clean energy passions home with her. She does her best to live a sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle and enjoys charity runs.