Impact Studio: supporting promising social innovation solutions

The Impact Studio provides support to a limited number of the most promising social innovation solutions arising in response to our mission overall.

The initiatives accepted into the Impact Studio may come in the form of new policies, collaborations, narratives, programs, processes, or business models. 

The Impact Studio can support these initiatives by:

• Mobilizing the Energy Futures Lab Community
• Designing and Facilitating Workshops
• Fundraising Support
• Partnership Brokering
• Communications Support
• Policy Advocacy Support
• Impact Evaluation
• Project Administration Support

The number of initiatives accepted into the Impact Studio will vary depending on available resources and may change over time. Applications are accepted throughout the year from Fellows, Ambassadors and Partners.

Active Solutions

The following set of active solutions are currently being developed and supported within the Impact Studio.

Grid Sandbox

A real-world platform to test sophisticated software applications in our democratizing energy system

Learn more about Grid Sandbox

More and more people are purchasing electric vehicles, installing rooftop solar, installing energy efficient appliances, and generally engaging more in energy generation and storage. As such there is a growing need and market for sophisticated software applications that will allow this rapidly democratizing energy system to work safely and in a way that ultimately benefits citizens.  

However, in order to develop these types of solutions, digital innovators and entrepreneurs need a platform to test their technical viability and consumer acceptance in a real world setting.  This currently does not exist.  The Grid Sandbox is meant to be this platform, and will engage Alberta homeowners, municipalities, artificial intelligence innovators and energy utilities. 

The Grid Sandbox is a collaboration between the Energy Futures Lab Fellows from City of Edmonton, ReWatt Power, BrainToy.AI, EQUS and Enmax that will ultimately result in better solutions for homeowners, a more robust electricity grid, and exportable digital products.

Battery Metals Association of Canada

A new organization to capture the enormous potential of battery metals in Canada

Learn more about Battery Metals Association of Canada

With its strengths in mining, resource development and clean tech, the growth of electric vehicles and electrification, offers new and unique opportunities for Canada and its battery materials industry.  At the same time, the battery metals industry is new and not acting in a coordinated and strategic manner to seize these opportunities.  

As a response, Energy Futures Lab Fellows from E3 Metals, the Delphi Group, JWN Energy, and PrariesCan, led the formation and launch of the Battery Metals Association of Canada (BMAC) to mobilize a diverse group of players that constitute its value chain.   

In 2021 BMAC convened an initial meeting of over 80 industry players, to take stock of the current state of the value chain.  Subsequently, the BMAC and the Energy Futures Lab co-hosted a series of workshops to where the BMAC community co-created a credible and compelling vision for how battery metals can contribute to a stronger, cleaner and more prosperous Canada, and the important initial steps to get there.

Behind Closed Doors: The Reality of Energy Poverty in Alberta

An initiative to shine a light on the realities and solutions to energy poverty

Learn more about Behind Closed Doors

There are currently 2.8 million Canadians living in energy poverty, meaning these individuals pay a disproportionate amount of their earnings on energy bills. While the average Albertan family will spend $2,699/yr, an energy poor family will spend upwards of $3,333. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that energy poor families tend to earn 53% less than the Provincial average, earning approximately $36,914 a year versus $77,926. The combination of higher than average bills and lower than average income has resulted in many families requiring additional support. 

Yet, Alberta is the only Canadian province without programming dedicated to addressing energy poverty. Meanwhile, there is very little information pointing to the severity of this issue in the province. This is why the Energy Futures Lab’s Behind Closed Doors initiative is working to create more transparency around the topic of energy poverty in Alberta. By sharing people’s lived experiences, highlighting existing efforts and advocating for more timely solutions, this initiative is ultimately committed to enabling a more inclusive and equitable energy future.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels Vision, Roadmap & Action Plan

A new collaboration to advance and capture the economic potential of sustainable aviation fuels in Canada

Learn more about Canadian Sustainable Aviation Fuels

The aviation sector has adopted ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions from their operations. The transition and use of low carbon and sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in Canada is of critical importance on the path to achieving these targets.  This will not be easy, and the aviation sector in Canada is leading from the front with the creation of the Canadian Council for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (C-SAF).

Canada has all the right ingredients to become a world leader in the development and production of affordable SAF – sustainable feedstocks, an innovative technology sector, well-established infrastructure, and a forward-thinking aviation industry.

Due to the Energy Futures Lab track record in wrestling with the tensions of energy transition, fostering collaborative innovation and championing “biojet”, C-SAF has asked us to help mobilize and advance its mission.
For this project, the we are partnering with the Transition Accelerator. The Transition Accelerator works with groups across Canada to solve business and social challenges while building viable transition pathways to a net zero future. The Transition Accelerator has been developing a set of tools to co-develop and co-deploy industry roadmaps.
A co-creative process to develop a shared vision, roadmap and action plan that identifies priority actions and investments for sustainable aviation fuels in Canada from March to September of 2022.  

Energy Futures Print Portfolio

An arts-inspired project to visualize and spark conversations on our energy future

Learn more about the Energy Futures Print Portfolio

Energy transition isn’t simply a technological feat. The challenge ahead is multi-faceted, impacting each and every one of us in unique ways. It’s also a conversation, a matter of culture and an opportunity for people from across disciplines to develop a shared vision for our energy future. 

The Print Portfolio, stewarded by Energy Futures Lab Fellow Eveline Kolijin, encourages Alberta-based writers and artists to think deeply about how energy transition is impacting the province. What pathways and innovations currently exist? How should communities adapt? Can energy transition play a role in creating a more equitable society? These are a few of the questions Eveline is asking to help prompt a deeper energy discussion amongst Alberta’s arts community. 

In this interdisciplinary project, writers and artists are introduced to energy experts in the Energy Futures Lab Fellowship. By engaging in informative discussions with Fellows, selected writers and artists will learn more about Alberta’s evolving energy system and the opportunities and challenges shaping this transition. The resulting work will involve a physical portfolio, featuring prints, stories, poems or essays that represent Alberta’s complex relationship to energy transition.

eVenture: NW Alberta eMobility Network

Mobilizing a rural electric vehicle charging network to address gaps in the system

Learn more about eVentures

With the rapid increase and interest in electric vehicles (EV), gaps are emerging in parts of Alberta when it comes to accessing EV infrastructure that are limiting local e-mobility opportunities. The eVenture EV Charging Infrastructure Network is an innovative regional approach seeking to deploy a network of EV charging stations in the west side of the North and Central Alberta areas, and address gaps in engagement of rural communities in emerging e-mobility technologies.

Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure will enhance tourism and economic development opportunities, increase demand for local industry products (natural gas for nearby electricity generation plants), capacity building & retraining opportunities, and increase adoption of electric vehicles (EV) by residents. The project seeks to facilitate a region-wide collaboration to address the gaps in charging infrastructure, identify an approach that will maximize the benefits to communities and leverage local approaches.

The network advocates for the installation of DC Fast Charging and Level 2, as well as innovative demonstration opportunities (e.g. backcountry charging, charging hubs, etc.). DC Fast Charging stations allow for a quick stop en route due to a short charging time, while Level 2 stations provide opportunity to shop, dine or visit tourism attractions while vehicles charge for up to six hours.

Alberta Municipal Climate Leaders Council

Alberta’s municipal leaders from all communities, large and small, urban and rural, are leaders in implementing ambitious climate action

Learn more about the Alberta Municipal Climate Leaders Council

We envision a future in which Alberta communities, large and small, urban and rural, are leaders in implementing ambitious climate action from High Level to Lethbridge.

 

The Leadership Council is a peer network that enables local government staff and elected officials to hear directly from peers implementing specific climate actions, learn from their experiences, and understand how to adapt solutions. It provides a forum for ongoing coaching on tactical implementation and building support across different perspectives.

 

Participation in the Alberta Municipal Climate Leaders Council (AB MCLC) has given the elected leaders of communities the tools and skills necessary to meet the challenge of the climate emergency. As a result their cities, towns and hamlets are on track to meet climate targets while ensuring a prosperous, low carbon future for their residents.

Graduated Solutions

The following are solutions that have “graduated” from the Lab, i.e. that we have spun off or released to be on their own to make impact.  

Bitumen Scenarios to 2050

Challenge: In Canada and globally, the energy transition is being driven by markets that are seeing climate change as a risk and rewarding businesses that are taking a proactive approach. Alberta Innovates Innovative Hydrocarbon Products program has a mandate to support projects that will contribute to Alberta’s hydrocarbon resource value while securing long-term future for Alberta’s oilsands resources in a new economy. 

Initiative: As part of this mandate, the National Partial Upgrading Committee is developing a Technology Roadmap to guide its research, investment decisions, and to inform its portfolio mix. This will help ensure Albertans get value from their bitumen resource long into the low-emission future.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: As a unique convenor of multi-stakeholder groups, the Energy Futures Lab is provided facilitation support to inform the development of the next iteration of the Technology Roadmap through workshops with the goal to clarifying, as a group,  how the potential future scenarios related to bitumen can inform the roadmap development for continuing to derive value from resources within Alberta.

Impact: A total of 4 plausible scenarios were created with the participation of 17 organizations. The future scenarios analyzed the market potential and implications for Alberta bitumen markets.  

Significance: Developing this framework with the contribution of multiple organization ensured the resulting scenarios were reflective of the ‘hive mind’. The scenarios were intended for use within the participating organizations to actively analyze future market possibilities and aid in decision-making.

Youth Seed Fund

Challenge: In 2021, young people under 30 represented 34% of Canada’s population. This number speaks to significant talent, passion and curiosity capable of shaping our energy future. Passing up the opportunity to work with these young people would be a tremendous loss, which is why the Energy Futures Lab created the Energy Futures Youth Seed Fund.

Initiative: Many young people are committed to an inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future. The Energy Futures Youth Seed Fund recognized this commitment and was designed to inspire action and collaboration among Albertan youth. Offering Albertans aged 18-30 access to low-barrier financial support for projects or initiatives, the Youth Seed Fund committed to accelerating the transition to the energy system the future requires of us.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: With $50,000 in total eligible grants, our goal with this program was to support projects initiated, led, and organized by young people. Grants ranged from $200-$2500 for young people to share their creativity and passion to help enable a just and sustainable energy transition.

Impact: Over two rounds of funding, we were able to provide grants to 15 youth-led projects/organizations.

Significance: The grants were a springboard for a number of the winners to push their initiatives to the next level. Some, like iDIG founder Selishia Smith, went on to receive additional seed funding and investment. Each of the winners is making a significant impact through their work. You can read more about their projects here: Youth Seed Fund winners

Reclaiming Our Future: Wellsite Abandonment & Reclamation Training Program

Challenge: As of 2020, Alberta had an estimated 71,000 abandoned wells, 2,983 orphan wells and 3,284 sites earmarked for reclamation. That same year, $1.7 billion was earmarked to clean up orphan wells in three provinces. The Government of Alberta sought to enhance Indigenous participation in inactive wellsite clean-up through the Site Reclamation Program.

One of the biggest challenges the energy sector is facing is related to education, training, and competencies.  In response to the ongoing labour shortage the Indian Resource Council (IRC) sought alleviate the bottleneck created since the inception of the Site Rehabilitation Program by offering workforce training through their First Nations owned and operated National Energy Business Centre of Excellence (NEBCE).

Initiative: The Energy Futures Lab worked in partnership with NEBCE to assist in the delivery of Wellsite Abandonment & Reclamation Training Programs (knows as Reclaiming Our Future) to two cohorts in the Siksika and Piikani Nations in southern Alberta.

EFL Contribution: We were able to provide funding for two cohorts to take the training, and develop workforce readiness within the two Nations.

Impact: The Siksika cohort graduated 18 participants and the Piikani cohort graduated 11 participants for a total of 30 individuals. An additional 25 students graduated from the Wellsite Abandonment and Reclamation Training Program.

Significance: Participants from the Blood Tribe and Piikani Nation will be able to meet the demand for skilled workers and fill employment gaps across Alberta.

Blockchain for Rural Community Power Aggregation

Challenge: Small rural distributed electricity generators face costs barriers to access emissions trading markets due to their small scale, forgoing a potential source of revenue for their renewable energy investment.  

Initiative: A pilot to develop and test a blockchain platform designed to verify and aggregate emissions credits from small scale generators.  

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: The Energy Futures Lab facilitated multiple opportunities for diverse energy system innovators – clean energy producers, financial institutions, utilities, technology firms, policy-makers and regulators – to work collaboratively to conceptualize, develop and implement the blockchain pilot.

Impact: 43 rural producers involved in a successful test that allowed for securing transactions and emissions credits. The developed technology now scaled to other users and applications. 

Significance: Provides greater financial incentive for the participation of smaller scale, more broadly distributed, energy producers in energy transition. This example is increasingly relevant in the accelerating evolution of the traditionally slow-moving electricity market.

EVenture NW Alberta eMobility Network

Challenge:  Although there are pockets of work underway to establish an e-mobility network in northwest Alberta, they are happening in an ad-hoc and uncoordinated way, leading to missed opportunities for grid management, along with increased implementation costs.

Initiative:  Develop collaboration agreements and a shared network map to coordinate and accelerate development of a regional EV charging network in northwest Alberta. 

Energy Futures Lab Contribution:  At the start of the COVID pandemic, the Energy Futures Lab convened, designed and facilitated a series of interactive online collaborative workshops with rural municipalities with the support of provincial and federal governments, as well as civil society organizations. In particular, this work was done in close collaboration with the Community Energy Association and Energy Futures Lab Fellow Megan Lohmann.

Impact:  Confirmed collaboration between eight local governments and municipal districts in the region to work jointly towards building the EVenture NW Alberta charging network, including completion of a charging network map and capital funding proposals.

Significance:  Collaboration to build charging infrastructure in rural areas fills gaps in Canada’s EV network, and allows rural communities in these regions to benefit from increased tourism and economic development opportunities. 

Louis Bull Renewable Schools Pilot

Challenge: Oil and gas industry and First Nations workers need to diversify their skills to be better prepared to participate in the growing renewable energy economy.  

Initiative:  EFL Fellows from Iron & Earth and the Louis Bull Tribe initiated the Louis Bull Solar School Pilot. The first of its kind in Canada, the pilot aimed to develop a worker training program by placing six renewable energy installations into the local community K-9 school.

EFL Contribution:. The EFL provided the platform to initiate the collaboration, nurture important relations, gain funder and industry support, and transform the idea into a reality.

Impact: Along with a preceding solar day care project, the Louis Bull Solar Schools Pilot trained over 70 workers from the local and surrounding community, who developed skills for the growing renewable energy economy. As a result, Iron & Earth developed three rapid upskilling programs.  

Significance: The pilot created a jumping off point for Iron & Earth, who now plans to bring similar training programs to over 70 communities and 1000 workers across Canada by 2026. The project highlighted the opportunity to develop energy based partnerships as part of a commitment to Truth and Reconciliation.

– – – – – – –

“If we can prove this pilot and how it can work, I definitely see it being incorporated in other First Nations.” -Desmond Bull

“Getting to know these people [at Louis Bull] has been inspiring. Being here has shown me how critical it is for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work and learn together side-by-side, taking care of the land as partners in honour of Indigenous Treaties.” -Jen Turner

Prosperous Transition Blueprint and Campaign

Challenge: Oil and gas workers need to be prepared to participate and thrive in a net-zero economy. 

Initiative: A campaign that lays out a blueprint for a prosperous transition to a net-zero carbon economy, powered by the vision and voices of oil and gas industry workers. 

Energy Futures Lab Contribution:  The Energy Futures Lab partnered with Iron + Earth to test, refine and amplify the blueprint and campaign with deep support from Fellows and other energy industry stakeholders.  

Impact: Developed the Prosperous Transition Plan, a blueprint for the Government of Canada to set a bold course towards net-zero by 2050, while creating opportunities for Canada’s existing workforce to participate and thrive. The accompanying campaign amplified hopeful narratives by elevating perspectives belonging to constituencies whose voices are considered crucial in today’s energy transition. 

Significance: A robust data set representing workers’ opinions provided a strong basis for the Government of Canada to act, knowing it is in service of the people whose jobs will be affected most by a transition to a net-zero economy. By doing so, this project catalyzed a significant increase in public support for an accelerated implementation of net-zero solutions.

AOSTRA 2.0 for Future Fit Hydrocarbons

Challenge: Major oil and gas producers lacked the forum to build trust, share ideas and collaborate around transformative approaches to decarbonizing hydrocarbon production and use. 

Initiative: A working group of EFL Fellows from government, large energy companies, and the cleantech ecosystem worked collaboratively to advance and build legitimacy for future-fit hydrocarbons. Broadly speaking, “future-fit hydrocarbons” include products and activities that build on Canada’s hydrocarbon assets in a way that is compatible with net-zero climate targets, such as clean hydrogen, bitumen beyond combustion, and carbon capture utilization and storage. The working group playfully called their collaboration “AOSTRA 2.0,” in reference to the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) whose work led to the development of Alberta’s oil sands.

EFL Contribution:  In its first year and a half, the Energy Futures Lab convened members of its Fellowship along with industry stakeholders to build relationships and collaboration outside of traditional channels. In doing so, the EFL supported exploration of transformative – rather than incremental – ideas for energy transition that rarely emerged in mainstream discussions at the time.

Impact: This collaborative work was foundational for the launch of Alberta Innovates’ Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge, and an effort by the Canadian Oil Sands industry Alliance (COSIA) to propose a next generation, public-private, research and development platform for low-emission hydrocarbons, a precursor to the Clean Resources Innovation Network (CRIN).

Significance: Working together, this group was able to legitimize new pathways for the production and use of hydrocarbons in a low-carbon future, enabling shifts in investment flows to support innovators. 

“We discussed some of these ideas in our team before the EFL. Maybe others did as well. But the EFL platform gave us the time to develop the idea, to understand it better, to legitimize it in the eyes of others, and to give us confidence to act on it. Now that it is here, and we have talked about it a lot with people, its ideas are not so strange. That opens up new doors for innovation and investment.” 

John Zhou, former EFL Fellow and Vice President, Clean Energy at Alberta Innovates

Sustainaville Geo Park

Challenge: As Canada looks to reduce its carbon emissions, geothermal energy offers a compelling pathway to meet community energy and economic development needs. Despite this opportunity,  there is a lack of on-the-ground Canadian examples that model how to tap into this abundant resource.

Initiative:  A first-of-its-kind in Canada, this Valemount, B.C project demonstrates how geothermal energy can be used as a low-emissions way to “grow a whole community” by facilitating local food production, supplying micro-power for commercial uses, and providing heat for eco-tourism attractions, in addition to traditional building heating uses.  

EFL Contribution:  Led by EFL Fellow Alison Thompson from Borealis GeoPower, the Energy Futures Lab supported the project’s early development through Fellow input on the concept and financing, as well as communication and partnership brokering support that raised its profile, funding and legitimacy.    

ImpactThe pilot is underway. When completed, project partners anticipate that Sustainaville will create 75 jobs, millions of dollars in diverse economic activity, and reductions in GHG emissions.

Significance:  If successful, the project could point to a less costly and quicker development path for similar projects in 203 communities in Canada, including 78 First Nations communities, who have been identified as potential replication sites.

“It’s been good to be associated with the EFL as a Fellow. Connecting with colleagues, peers and supporters was encouraging and gave me new ideas.” 

Alison Thompson, President and CEO, Borealis GeoPower Inc.

Leveraging our Energy Assets for Diversification (LEAD) Bill

Challenge: There is currently no regulatory pathway that allows new, traditional and renewable energy developers to repurpose abandoned oil wells and other aging oil and gas infrastructure. 

Initiative: A joint project of the Energy Futures Lab and Canada West Foundation that brought together 25 people from 16 organizations to work together on a non-partisan bill to allow for the safe and responsible repurposing of existing oil and gas infrastructure and sites. 

EFL Contribution:  EFL convened a diverse group of stakeholders, ensured resources to effectively manage and facilitate collaboration, and advocated on behalf of stakeholders to the Government of Alberta.

Impact: A report that not only presented a non-partisan draft bill, but showed that the lack of coordination across regulatory bodies, not legislation, is the key challenge to repurposing existing infrastructure.  

Significance: The project identified where to focus policy and regulatory efforts to unlock entrepreneurship to address Alberta’s challenge with inactive wells. Additionally, by building trust and new relationships between stakeholders who traditionally do not work together, the project demonstrated the value and potential of a collaborative approach to policy innovation.  

As a result, this project was the winner of the 2022 Clean50 Top Project award.

“A process-change approach within the current regulatory framework, as this report outlines, enables the repurposing of well sites for alternate uses to occur in a timely and effective manner while considering all stakeholders.”

Jenny Yeremiy, Liability Management Specialist, Canadian Natural Resources LTD

ERA Technology Roadmap

Challenge: Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) has a mandate to identify and accelerate innovative solutions that secure Alberta’s success in a lower carbon economy. As part of this mandate, ERA wanted to develop a robust Technology Roadmap (TRM) to guide its investment decisions and inform its portfolio mix.  

Initiative: Feeling that something was missing in early iterations of its Technology Roadmap, ERA worked with the EFL and its Fellowship to analyze and provide recommendations 

EFL Contribution: By applying a distinct “backcasting” lens, the EFL’s feedback helped to significantly refine the vision for ERA’s four main investment areas and the pathways to achieve them. It also gave ERA confidence to work beyond technological innovation and include social innovation – a stretch for a technology roadmap and organizations whose purpose is to invest in technology.

Impact: An updated version of the Technology Roadmap prominently factoring in the EFL Fellowship’s advice was publicly released by ERA in August 2018.  

Significance: The Fellows’ feedback on the Technology Roadmap continues to influence ERA’s policy decisions on where investment is needed to prepare Alberta for a low-carbon future, including the design of multi-million dollar funding programs to support cleantech innovators. 

“It was not just the diversity of the Fellows that made a difference. We could have convened just as diverse a group ourselves. It was the quality of their feedback. They had clearly worked together before and though they each had different – sometimes even dramatically different – opinions, they shared and discussed them in a way that was constructive and helpful. This gave us extra confidence in using their feedback.”

– Elizabeth Shirt, Past Executive Director, Policy and Strategy

Emission Reductions Alberta