Imagining a New Energy Future – with Imaginea Energy CEO Suzanne West

By February 23, 2016Latest News

What is the energy system that the future requires of us? This query underpins the convening question for the Energy Futures Lab and is a key part of the inquiry of the EFL Fellows as they backcast together in the Lab. Effective backcasting requires a bold and compelling vision to drive transformative innovation and overcome the tendency for only incremental improvement efforts.

Who better to help the EFL think about a bold and compelling vision for our energy system than Imaginea Energy President and CEO (and EFL Advisory Council member) Suzanne West? Chad Park sat down with Suzanne while she attended the first EFL workshop in Banff.

Our vision as an industry is that we are producing hydrocarbons to do good work in the world. To build things, to build renewable things, rather than to burn them and create pollution and emissions.

Suzanne West

Chad Park: I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Suzanne West, President and CEO of Imaginea Energy Corporation.

Suzanne West: Thank you for having me.

CP: The first thing we want to talk about is the big question that we are asking of the Fellows and of Alberta. What do you think our future energy system will look like?

SW: Imagining our future energy system requires for us to all to generate a new vision of what we want to be. We can generate a vision that is inspiring and motivating and digs into the best parts of us as humans, as business leaders, as community participants. We need to create a vision that we can see and can energize.

Our behaviors follow that, our innovations follow that, our desire to get rid of our bad habits follows all of this naturally and organically. We need to have people excited about a vision of Alberta, a vision of us as leaders in this energy field. Energy is going to define our future. We have been so blessed with the energy resources that we have in this province. Why wouldn’t we want to be leaders in that?

CP: You have built a company around a certain vision of the future and a certain vision of the energy system. Can you tell us a little more about that? About the vision that’s driving your work?

SW: Imaginea stands for imagine a new way of doing business. We are trying to create new paradigm shifts for people that are positive. Our main shift is to create an understanding and desire for an “and” mindset. We now have limited solution sets. You can either be a tree-hugger or a greedy capitalist in the energy sector. That’s just not been helpful.

Imaginea is all about trying to show the magic of “and”. To show the increase and the depth and breadth of the opportunity base that we have in the permutations and combinations of solutions to complex problems. That “and” is the way forward. It is an opportunist way of looking at it rather than under the banner of “should”. That is a good narrative too, that we should, because we definitely should. But to me, the more powerful narrative is “and.” It is the opportunity of making business better, of making our environmental footprint better, of providing greater meaning and purpose for people. That will just afford us a new future that is just going to be so much better.

CP: Can you tell us about a few of those examples where you are already starting to see, or to build, glimpses of the future?

SW: One of Imaginea’s really high dreams as we look further into the future is to help people understand that fossil fuels aren’t all bad. The problem with fossil fuels isn’t that we produce them. The problem is that we burn them.

Fossil fuels and combustion engine vehicles are very inefficient uses of the very precious energy we have. But, hydrocarbons, hydrogen and carbon, are two incredibly important molecules for our future. Hydrocarbons will be very important for building useful things for society. So, one of our high dreams at Imaginea is to transform this idea of not just how we are producing hydrocarbons, but why we are producing them.

Our vision as an industry is that we are producing hydrocarbons to do good work in the world. To build things, to build renewable things, rather than to burn them and create pollution and emissions.

Wouldn’t it be super cool if we had a province and a country that produced hydrocarbons without emissions, without pollution, without the use of fresh water? To build and use things in really helpful ways. We could potentially be the hydrocarbon source of choice, and we could be viewed as, “Wow, they’re the ones that are actually leading the way in how we need to do this.”


Stay tuned for Part 2 of Chad Park’s interview with Suzanne West.

Chad Park is the Director of the Energy Futures Lab and Executive Director of the Natural Step Canada