Accelerating Community Resilience in light of Energy Transition

A New Reality

Our world is shifting towards a low-carbon economy and the Canadian and global energy marketplace is changing. Many will debate the pace of this shift, but one thing we are certain of is that the shift is happening.

Much of this is driven by increasing concerns about our changing climate. A recent study by Canadian federal scientists and academics has warned that Canada’s climate is warming more rapidly than the global average.

These shifts and uncertainties have left many communities in Alberta rethinking their future and exploring how to create resilient communities, building on their human capital while taking advantage of new economic opportunities.

EFL Accelerator: Community Resilience

The recent EFL Accelerator on Community Resilience centered around the question: How can communities enhance long-term resilience in light of the shifting energy landscape? EFL Accelerators focus on advancing initiatives to help Alberta achieve the EFL vision created by the Lab’s diverse Fellows and partners.

The Accelerator brought together community leaders, funders, strategists, First Nations, and advisors – even four youth from Pincher Creek who brought their perspective on energy transition and hopes to learn how to shape the future of their community.

“What’s great is that I was able to collaborate with people from different backgrounds: education, energy, business…you get different ideas about different topics. It is cool to see out of the box thinking,” said one of the youth Ayden Pitcher from Matthew Halton High School in Pincher Creek, Alberta

This EFL Accelerator advanced four initiatives:

More about these initiatives can be found below.

Energy Transition in Southwest Alberta

“Learning about the socio-economic impact predicted by the loss of the Shell gas plant near Pincher Creek hit home for me,” said Diandra (DJ) Bruised Head – one the new EFL Fellows and also Climate Change Coordinator at Blood Tribe Land Management.

DJ participated in the SWELL Concept initiative, led by EFL Fellow James Van Leeuwen at the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative, which is focused on energy systems, and building capacity to design and develop energy systems the future will require. At the Accelerator, SWELL’s initiative explored the implications of closing Shell Canada’s Waterton Gas Complex, which has been a major economic generator for southwest Alberta since the early 1960s.

“My community is within the vicinity of the gas-plant; we can see the lights of the plant from the Blood Reserve some nights. While the socio-economic impact assessment was for Pincher Creek, it will impact Southern Alberta as a whole. My community prides itself on maintaining oil and gas as a prime industry, and there’s gratefulness in that statement: we’ve had the opportunity to elevate our Tribe economically and been successful in this area. The future challenges our historical success; however, the global economy for oil and gas is shifting, and is calling for investment into renewables.”

In 2018, the Blood Tribe was awarded a contract in partnership with Électricité de France (EDF) to invest in windmills and contribute to the community’s economy, but DJ recognizes that “there is a space to fill to bring in community buy-in for renewable energies.” She acknowledges that in order to develop renewables, the community would need visible projects and continued engagement to build capacity within the community.

New Digital Innovations and Community Resilience

Another initiative focused on how a successful pilot might contribute towards creating a more interconnected, accessible, and adaptable electricity system in the province. The pilot used blockchain technology to verify and aggregate emission reductions across solar sites from rural Albertan micro-producers. While it demonstrated additional value to small producers in the form of emission credits, perhaps more importantly, it also showcased the potential of the technology and the value of different stakeholders agreeing on a shared architecture. Participants explored what is needed to deploy this and other newer technologies in support of increased transparency and accessibility in Alberta’s power system.

Re-thinking Work, Re-training Workforce

The main premise of the Louis Bull Solar Renewable Schools Pilot, led by Fellow Lliam Hildebrand at Iron & Earth, is to assist un- (or under) employed oil and gas workers and Indigenous community members in expanding their skill sets to include renewable energy projects.

Nick Clark, Director at Utilities, Network and Partners, a Calgary-based organization affiliated with the Olds Institute also participated at the Iron & Earth session and shared a different perspective on community-based projects. He strongly encouraged community leaders to look at market-based approaches.

“What you need to possibly think of is, if subsidies and government grants disappear, if the programs are not sustainable on their own, how do you achieve your objectives?” said Nick.

The session focused on the potential for Iron and Earth to apply a social enterprise approach to its work, with experts from the TRICO Changemakers and ATB Financial. Ranice Macyk, Senior Manager, Entrepreneur Capital Business & Agriculture at ATB Financial participated and brought a wealth of knowledge on financing options for community-based organizations:

“I loved to see some of the projects that everyone is working on and I think it is a great idea to bring individuals from different backgrounds and industries together to help solve problems,” said Ranice.

Each session brought a different initiative, a different story, and a variety of experts to help initiatives advance at this EFL Accelerator.

Moving forward

Many Alberta community leaders and organizations are aware of the implications of energy transition and how it will continue to impact community resilience and the province’s future workforce. The EFL will continue to work with interested stakeholders to develop these initiatives. If you are interested in getting involved with the EFL, please check out the opportunities here.

For those in rural Alberta, consider participating in an Energy Futures Roadshow near your community. Roadshows typically include a series of workshops over a few days with community members, businesses, governments, schools, economic and community developers and the general public, followed by support from the Energy Futures Lab team to enable action.

So far, we have delivered four Roadshows in Alberta communities, namely Crowsnest Pass, Hinton, Devon, and Grande Prairie. These Roadshows have been praised and attracted a diversity of community and government leaders. Join us at Energy Futures Roadshows in Banff, Drayton Valley, and Red Deer in fall 2019. Stay tuned!

Nagwan Al-Guneid, Communications Lead

Pong Leung, Energy Futures Lab Lead Strategist