Rising Stars Class of 2019: Tiffany Novotny; Alberta Energy Regulator

Today’s up-and-coming leaders are helping to shape tomorrow’s energy future. Whether it’s new thinking, fresh attitudes or technical solutions, showcasing their work and vision is of tremendous value to the entire energy industry.

Daily Oil Bulletin’s Rising Stars Class of 2019 is a showcase event of the excellent work done by young emerging energy leaders.

Today, we profile Tiffany Novotny, Alberta Energy Regulator.

Click here to see this year's Class of Rising Stars.

As a manager with the former Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), predecessor to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), Tiffany Novotny came to a pivotal moment in her career when she brought a business case to her supervisor.

“I felt the ERCB was very bureaucratic. I couldn’t believe that we didn’t use some business fundamentals in how we operated,” she says.

She asked her supervisor if the Board would support her in doing an MBA so that she could help incorporate more efficient business practices into the organization.

“He said, ‘No. We’re a technical-science organization. We don’t need that expertise,’” Novotny recalls with a hint of grimace. She believes the regulator is and will always need to be technical-science based but questioned why it couldn’t be both science-based and more business oriented.

Shortly after, the province passed the Responsible Energy Development Act, which led to the ERCB’s re-organization into the AER in December 2012 and the formation of a one-stop shop for regulatory approvals to expedite delays and reduce costly red tape.

Novotny then asked her new AER supervisor the same question. This time the answer was “Absolutely! We need that!” The AER went on to strike a new balance between responsible resource stewardship and more efficient development approvals.

During her MBA studies towards a 2016 graduation, she helped deliver important outcomes-based initiatives such as regulatory modernization and re-engineering the AER’s planning and performance functions to support the efficient use of company resources.

Today, Novotny feels her greatest asset as a regulator is as a generalist. Her wide range of regulatory experience includes field work as a reclamation/environmental specialist, stakeholder engagement, application and hearing management, writing regulatory requirements and implementing operational efficiencies.

Still, Novotny’s career didn’t turn out the way she originally envisioned it when she started university, determined to become an environmental lawyer.

“To put myself through school, I worked at a law firm. But later, being exposed to law, I said, ‘That’s not what I want to do.’”

Ultimately, her career turned out better than planned. She earned a Bachelor of Science with a focus on environmental science and, after working in research and as a consultant, joined the regulator where she found a satisfying middle ground between legal work and science. In 2017 she earned a certificate in Regulatory Leadership from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa and remains committed to the public service of Alberta.

In considering Alberta’s call for an AER review this September, Novotny says that the organization has made significant strides to become a better regulator but that there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement. “We have an obligation to the people that we serve, to be able to prove that we are using the money and resources that we have to provide the most impact. It’s the same as any company, but the ROI [return on investment] is sometimes less tangible,” she says.

In her family life, Novotny loves to ski, bike and hike with her husband and kids. She is active in Calgary’s competitive gymnastics community, supporting her young children in the activity. She also volunteers in their school. But her most impactful contribution to Alberta is her work with the AER and the sense of purpose she brings to it.

“Maybe it’s because I was born and grew up here in Alberta that I ask myself what Alberta will look like in the future and how my kids will live here and what opportunities they will have,” she says.

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