Climate Neutral Creates Software to Help Municipalities Reduce Their Carbon Footprint
These days, everything can be done online; renewing your driver’s license, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, and now, reducing your carbon footprint.
By applying a computer science approach to environmental impact analysis, Windsor-based cleantech company Climate Neutral is developing and implementing easy-to-use software resources to help municipalities across Canada accelerate climate action and address the climate emergency.
Although still in its infancy, the company is already making waves; recently winning WEtech Alliance’s latest ScaleUP Accelerator pitch competition, earning the $20,000 top prize. The winnings have helped founder Dr. Kyle Bassett accelerate his business plan to implement the company’s flagship software, CERCA.
The greenhouse gas (GHG) Inventory Management System automates the reporting, visualization, and analysis of GHG and energy for municipalities, cities, and regions. This innovative platform empowers local governments with the tools to track, report, and update vital data annually, improving accountability and transparency while providing decision-makers and community members with valuable environmental impact data and insights.
Simply put, an integral tool that was once only available to the country’s largest municipalities for hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultancy fees is now accessible to cities and towns of all sizes for a fraction of the cost.
“So far we’ve had a really great response,” says Dr. Bassett. “We launched in February and we’re already working with 14 municipalities across the province. That represents over 10% of the total population of Ontario.”
It’s been an interesting journey for the founder, who completed his undergrad and Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Windsor and spent time building wooden wind turbines in the foothills of Nicaragua before returning to the area in 2015 to complete his Doctorate in Civil Engineering. He used the knowledge he had gained in South America to begin building wind turbine prototypes at the University of Windsor’s 3D print lab.
“That was really my first introduction to WEtech and the support there,” says Dr. Bassett. “They’ve always been a really great help.”
In 2018, Dr. Bassett took a position in the public sector as the City of Windsor’s Community Energy Planner, and that is where the seeds of Climate Neutral were planted.
“It was a real eye-opening experience as to how climate action and climate policy is developed and created,” he shares. “During that role, I just kind of immersed myself in that environment and was able to see the way things were working in other municipalities, all of whom were in some ways dealing with the same challenges.”2
“We launched in February and we’re already working with 14 municipalities across the province. That represents over 10% of the total population of Ontario.”
Eventually, Dr. Bassett says, he began to see a lot of the same pain points across the board.
“One of the things that really struck me was, ‘How is there no specialized software to help on the data side specifically?’” he recalls. “You think about technology and the incredible impact it’s had on our lives in virtually every aspect of it, and then we get to something so critical as public environmental policy, and they just didn’t have those tools in the toolbox yet.”
Coming from industry, he continues, it was an eye-opening experience.
“Industry has enterprise software solutions for virtually everything, and so I was used to that culture and that environment from my industrial experience,” he says. “That was when the wheels started turning. How could one develop software or apply some principles of computer science and modern web development in order to leverage that toward this important problem?”
Simply put, how could computer science be used to help fight climate change? How could techniques that have worked in other industries be adapted to this unique public interest? The idea being to help everyone reduce emissions and increase sustainability over time.
Although Dr. Bassett didn’t have a computer science background, he says he enjoyed building and fixing computers as a young boy.
“I loved computers as a kid. I think I built my first computer with my mom before I could read the instruction manual,” he laughs. “I’ve always been really comfortable with computers, but never got to the point of programming, so it was really this interesting challenge of ‘Ok I’ve got this idea: let’s create software to help municipalities to measure their emissions and plan to reduce them. Now how do I start?’”
Before he officially started Climate Neutral, Dr. Bassett says he knew he needed to learn how to code. He spent the next six months in a cabin in Western Canada where he immersed himself in learning to code and program.
“While I was out there, I knew I’d be coming back home and I began to recall all the resources and help that EPICentre and WEtech had offered with my 3D printed turbines,” he notes. “I was very deliberately thinking, ‘Ok, when I get back to Windsor, I’m going to finish off this version of the prototype and show it to WEtech and see what they think.”
Upon his return, Dr. Bassett met with the team at WEtech and learned about the ScaleUP Accelerator Program. The award-winning program, powered by Libro Credit Union, provides intensive growth coaching, expert insight, strategic planning, and financial assistance to tech entrepreneurs in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent looking to scale their business.
“The timing of ScaleUP worked out so well,” he shares. “It was in perfect alignment with where my company was at. I needed to spend time and get support on the business development side and that was exactly what the program helped with. The stars really aligned there.”
Dr. Bassett says he is very grateful for the guidance and one-on-one coaching he received throughout the program and feels it helped him accelerate his business plan and get his software into the hands of municipalities sooner.
“After ScaleUP I was so motivated. I was able to fine tune the approach and optimize it based on what I learned,” he says. “I’ve been able to rewrite the software and start working with users. I can’t say enough good things about the program.”
“After ScaleUP I was so motivated. I was able to fine tune the approach and optimize it based on what I learned.”
Currently, Climate Neutral offers a free set of resources to municipalities, allowing them to interactively explore low-carbon pathways, benchmark corporate emissions, and discover best-practises from across the country.
The full CERCA tool kit is currently being rolled out as a paid subscription service, offering a full tool box designed to support net-zero targets through monitoring, planning, and engagement.
“As I’ve been speaking with the municipalities, one thing they’re really looking for is for everything to be connected to a framework,” says Dr. Bassett. “It’s really great to be able to create that framework for them, almost like a step-by-step recipe for how they can go about this process. That’s kind of the idea behind the name CERCA, which stands for ‘Climate Emergency Response Carbon Accounting’ or ‘Carbon Emissions Reduction Climate Action.’”
Municipalities have full control over all the program’s variables and can set the parameters to meet their specific needs, he adds. Users simply enter data into a table and click ‘calculate’.
“We take a totally different approach in that it’s all live data analysis, so they have full control over all the things that drive the analysis that they’re after,” explains Dr. Bassett. “The software offers full control for you to customize it specifically to your community; things like your community population, your population growth, as well as your emissions and energy profile, so how energy is used within your community and where that energy results in different emissions.”
Users can essentially measure the total carbon footprint of a city or corporation through the software and layout a pathway for reduction.
“That’s where Climate Neutral comes in, to help them quantify their existing emissions and then create a pathway to lower them over time,” he adds.
Dr. Bassett says he’s proud of the strides Climate Neutral has made in such a short period of time and looks forward to continuing to grow the company, helping municipalities across the world make more informed decisions when it comes to climate action.
“Providing people with more information on which to base decisions is a good thing,” he says. “I’ve always been motivated by challenge, so the idea of working on an important issue like this and having it lead to better outcomes is very exciting.”
Jennifer Brignall-Strong is WEtech Alliance’s Content Creator & Digital Host. Her media career spans over 15 years, with experience in marketing, promotions, copywriting, and radio production. Jen’s work has been featured in multiple local publications, including The DRIVE Magazine and Windsor Body. As an active member of the community, Jen also volunteers her time as a member of the Board of Directors for the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre. She is also a regular contributor to AM800 CKLW and Tourism Windsor-Essex and runs Tailgate Takeout; a local food blog showcasing the best places to eat and explore in YQG. Through her work, she hopes to showcase the region as an amazing place to work, play, and live