Vision & Innovation Pathways
The Vision and Innovation Pathways below are the collective work of the Energy Futures Lab (EFL) Fellowship, drafted in a series of discussions over the past six months. It is being shared as a working draft to seek input.
The Vision and Innovation Pathways within the work of the EFL will be used to:
- Spark and coordinate action as a Lab , e.g. through working groups of leading organizations, innovators, and thought leaders.
- Give the Lab a shared voice and amplify its reach, e.g. through strategic communications efforts and network building.
- Solicit input and support of partners and stakeholders, e.g. through surveys, presentations, and invitations to be a part of the EFL.
Background and Context
Alberta faces both big challenges and new opportunities as rapidly evolving forces shape the global energy system and deeply affect our province. Our energy system is deeply interconnected with other systems, and this interdependence means addressing energy challenges in Alberta is vital to the social, environmental and economic well-being of Albertans, Canadians, and the world.
Alberta in a new energy world
As an energy provider whose economic vitality is closely tied to the global energy economy, we face a new set of competitive factors. As energy consumers living in a cold climate, geographically distant from other trading partners, Albertans use significant amounts of energy to live and do business. Our future prosperity will be determined largely by how we respond to the interconnected issues of climate change, energy security, social equity, and sustainable economic development.
We recognize the world needs to find a way to provide energy for its citizens and economies without exceeding two degrees of global warming. We also recognize there is unprecedented global agreement with commitment to transitioning the global economy to achieve this target. Through these efforts, it’s important to value the health and equity of individuals, families, communities, the economy, and the environment.
Leverage our strengths and our past to transition to the future
The development and export of oil and gas have helped create a prosperous industrial sector and economy for Alberta and Canada. We cannot expect that prosperity today lies in the same path it did in the past. Nor can we abandon the resources and assets that have made us prosperous until now. Our prosperity challenge lies in developing and leveraging our resources and assets in a way that helps build the energy system the future requires of us. This means developing low/no-carbon energy opportunities while reducing the footprint of higher-carbon energy products that are currently the backbone of our economy. Alberta can lead the world by showing how this can be done.
Innovation is central to the Alberta story
This will require the deployment of new and proven models, collaborations, technologies and a big focus on innovation. Alberta has a long history of innovation to build on. The capabilities and knowhow Albertans have developed as a global energy leader can serve as a platform for the innovation required to address our current challenges. Doing so will create new opportunities to renew our economic vitality and diversify the sources of our shared prosperity.
Our Shared Vision
We envision an Alberta energy system that is fit for the future. Production and consumption in our energy system is guided by science and aligns with the principles of sustainability.
In this vision, Alberta continues to provide products and innovations to meet the world’s changing needs for heating, electricity, and mobility. We have simultaneously pioneered the development and deployment of alternative energy and energy efficiency technologies. We have lowered the footprint of hydrocarbon resource production to the point that Alberta’s energy products and knowhow are considered key enablers of the transition to a low-carbon global energy system.
Alberta has become a global leader and role model for other resource-based economies and established sustainable prosperity for its communities and Canada as a whole.
Description of Success
To us, achieving this vision means that by 2050 Alberta’s energy system:
- Enables a high quality of life for Albertans by meeting our energy needs reliably and affordably. Energy drives much of the everyday life for Albertans and the economy, and its availability and affordability affect our standard of living. Albertans depend on our energy system to meet their needs for shelter, comfort, mobility, food, and to operate their businesses and institutions. Dependable and affordable energy ensures a high quality of life for Albertans and a strong economy.
- Contributes to reconciliation between Alberta’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Our energy system fosters engagement with and development in Indigenous communities, while fully respecting aboriginal and treaty rights, traditional knowledge, values, perspectives, and honouring the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It includes Indigenous peoples, and enhances their environmental and social prosperity and personal well-being.
- Is inclusive, accessible, and equitable to current and future generations. Alberta’s energy system supports the well-being of Alberta communities, recognizes its responsibility to global communities, ensures all voices and perspectives are included in how decisions are made, and that all Albertans can share in its benefits. Special consideration is given to youth and marginalized populations, including their energy needs.
- Enhances the health of our natural environment and the health of Albertans. Alberta’s energy system contributes to positive long-term impacts on ecosystems, including air, water, land, and biodiversity, and is restorative to ecosystems and natural capital. Energy production and usage is designed in a manner that enables and encourages Albertans to live a healthy life.
- Is net carbon-neutral for the production and consumption of energy in Alberta. Policies, technologies, and processes are in place that have resulted in carbon neutral emissions and fostered innovation to expand non-combustive utilization for carbon and carbon dioxide. There is no net accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere as a result of Alberta’s energy system.
- Is a continued source of economic prosperity for the province and the country. The energy system continues to provide significant short and long-term economic benefits and jobs for Alberta and Canada. It fosters an attractive investment environment for energy producers, energy users, and entrepreneurs.
- Is diverse, resilient, and adaptable. A diversity of energy sources, strong and flexible connections between energy sources and uses, and a distributed network help ensure Alberta’s energy system is resilient and adaptable to changing circumstances.
Our Innovation Pathways
We recognize our energy system underpins and depends upon all other systems that shape our society, and that we will not achieve a “fit for the future” energy system overnight. We will need to strategically invest our economic wealth and other assets to enable a transition to this vision. We need to work both on practices that mitigate risks and capture opportunity in the short-term and on transformational initiatives that help shape the future.
The transition from today’s energy system to the one the future requires of us calls for a sustained commitment to innovation and collaboration that involves people and organizations across Alberta. It will also require continuous evaluation and adaptation given the dynamic and evolving nature of social, cultural, economic, and environmental factors.
The Energy Futures Lab is committed to helping lead this effort. We believe the following innovation pathways are the best areas to focus our collective efforts to accelerate the transition. While we know they will evolve over time and that some pathways may advance more easily than others, we believe they all are important. We will organize the collaborative action, ongoing experimentation, and innovation efforts of the Energy Futures Lab around these pathways and seek to engage with others already working in these areas in Alberta.
- Radically increase carbon efficiency and lower environmental impact in energy production. This means we need to increase the deployment of existing technologies that increase the energy efficiency of our energy production and seek breakthroughs that significantly improve energy efficiency in the extraction, production, transport, and transmission of all forms of energy in Alberta. For example, it could include expanding the application of technologies to capture and store carbon.
- Pioneer innovative, high-value uses for carbon and carbon dioxide beyond combustion. This means placing a strong focus in our innovation system on developing and commercializing ways to use carbon as a material in various applications.
- Make major advances on the development, manufacturing, and deployment of renewable energy in Alberta. This means taking advantage of Alberta’s potential for solar, wind, geothermal, and other forms of renewable energy by accelerating renewable energy development through innovative policies, financing schemes, partnerships, and business models. Particular attention is placed on developing such opportunities in Indigenous communities.
- Dramatically reduce energy use through the development of smart energy communities throughout Alberta, including in Indigenous communities. This means developing and implementing community initiatives that greatly increase energy efficiency, for example, through urban design that promotes active transport, and community energy plans that support district energy and net-zero building design. It also means making major advancements in energy efficiency in non-energy producing industries throughout Alberta.
- Empower Albertans to participate in more local and distributed sustainable alternative energy supply. This means championing policies that remove barriers to a more distributed energy system and developing financial models that facilitate an increasing number of Albertans and Albertan organizations in becoming suppliers of energy.
- Build awareness and literacy broadly in Alberta about the full spectrum of energy choices and costs. This means empowering citizens to make choices that reduce their energy consumption by providing them with information on options for more efficient energy use. It also includes building support for stronger policies to better recognize the full cost of energy in its price, in particular carbon pricing.
- Pioneer transparent policy development processes and decision-making tools that reflect long-term thinking and integrated approaches. This means modeling and sharing collaborative approaches on how we make decisions on energy that take an inter-generational, holistic, and systems-based perspective, including alignment with other governments (for example in a national energy strategy).
- Engage the hearts and imaginations of Albertans in energy system transition. This means involving artists and cultural communities to inspire and engage Albertans in the possibilities offered by an energy transition.
- Support the transfer and development of new skills in Alberta’s labour force to help workers and communities thrive in a low-carbon economy. This means working with businesses, labour organizations, as well as professional and educational institutions to help workers build new competencies and knowledge to take advantage of new employment opportunities offered by the energy transition.
- Support initiatives where Indigenous peoples lead innovation in sustainable energy development. This means enabling alternative energy development in Indigenous communities by contributing to capacity development and empowerment in a culturally and spiritually appropriate manner.
- Dramatically reduce energy used for the transportation of people and goods. This means developing and implementing initiatives that leverage new and transform existing infrastructure to reduce demand on transportation fuels and associated greenhouse gas emissions, in a way that meets Albertans’ desire for safe and convenient mobility.