Impact Studio: promising social innovation solutions

From 2021-2024 the Impact Studio provided support for a limited number of the most promising social innovation solutions arising in response to our mission overall.

Initiatives supported by the Impact Studio included new policies, collaborations, narratives, programs, processes, or business models. 

The Impact Studio supported 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

All Impact Studio projects have now graduated and new initiatives are not being taken at this time.

Solutions were evaluated against 3 strategic pillars


Supporting people and communities

Supporting people and communities as they lean into the energy transition to help ensure social and economic resiliency for generations to come

Enable new growth industries

Enable the emergence of new growth industries to position Canada’s economy to thrive in a net-zero future.

Novel solutions for hydrocarbon resources

Unlock novel and creative solutions for Canada’s hydrocarbon resources to contribute to a net-zero future.

Graduated Solutions

Below are solutions that have graduated from the Lab and represent initiatives that have been completed, have spun off, or been released to generate further impact.

Behind Closed Doors: The Reality of Energy Poverty in Alberta

Challenge: Across Alberta, the cost of energy is increasing and more households are spending a disproportionate amount of their household income towards home energy bills. This is energy poverty. Alberta is the only province in Canada without systems to support low-to-moderate income families to reduce their energy bills.

Initiative: 2022 Ambassador Yasmin Abraham from EmPower Me wanted to test multiple potential pathways relevant to advancing equitable energy affordability in Alberta. The first part of this initiative involved a stakeholder engagement process and the identification of community champions to build awareness of energy poverty in Alberta, share potential solutions and identify supporters of a pilot program for subsidized energy efficiency upgrades. Next, the team hosted a webinar and created a video to highlight the scope of energy poverty in Alberta and identify a path forward. A funding map highlighting potential funders of an Alberta-based program to support people struggling with energy poverty was subsequently developed.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: In preparation for the launch of the initiative, the Energy Futures Lab provided strategic communications insights and assisted with the development of video assets. The Energy Poverty campaign launch, brainstorm and reporting sessions were co-hosted as a part of our workshops with Fellows and Ambassadors. We additionally supported funding applications for this initiative and facilitated introductions to potential program funders, as well as amplifying the learnings and findings with its broader network.

Impact: In late 2022, Empower Me and the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, will relaunch the Home Upgrades Program in Calgary and Edmonton. This program will help renters and homeowners reduce their energy consumption by implementing energy savings measures, and providing energy education and mentorship free of charge. The program provides different levels of support, products, and installations depending on the home, its energy consumption and participants’ financial need.

Significance: The relaunch is an essential first step to the creation of a unique Alberta-wide program that will help both homeowners and renters decrease their energy consumption and bills and create more comfortable and efficient living environments. This missing piece of the puzzle is necessary to ensure that anyone, regardless of financial standing, can take part in retrofitting as part of the energy transition.

Getting to Know the Electricity Customers of the Future

Challenge: Electricity users tend to have a transactional relationship with their energy, which inhibits both providers’ and users’ ability to learn from each other. With a different kind of relationship, providers can uncover unmet needs as well as undiscovered possibilities for new products or information that would assist in planning for the future of the grid. Simultaneously, users would gain a say in shaping their energy services going forward.

There are many changes that could be made as electricity providers forecast, update and modernize Alberta’s electricity system in a way that ensures the continued safety, reliability and resiliency of the grid, while enabling customers to choose when and how they use energy. Many barriers and complexities exist on forging a pathway to net-zero and the end-user, or energy citizen, tends to be less engaged in the process. Which changes do energy citizens really want? Which ones will contribute to an electricity future that reflects their needs and values?

Initiative: The Energy Futures Lab’s Energy.AI Innovation Challenge in 2021 sparked conversations on the need to engage electricity customers in a different way. Importantly, planning for changes to the electricity system ought to be informed by the desires and future visions of electricity citizens. This concept was accepted into the Impact Studio and supported by the Alberta Smart Grid Consortium (ASGC), whose members expressed an interest in deepening their understanding of the desires, needs, and preferences that drive customer behaviours and decision-making. This effort also builds on an electricity customer persona study that was commissioned in 2020 by ASGC.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: The Energy Futures Lab had planned to work with a sub-committee of the ASGC to deliver this project across 2023, before shifting focus to work on Alberta’s Electricity Future. 

Impact and Significance: The conversations helped to shape the Alberta’s Electricity Future Innovation Challenge.
A number of the original goals of the project are now being progressed through that challenge. 

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

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.

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.

– – – – – – –

“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

Four Seasons of Indigenous Summits: Building Energy and Sustainability

Challenge: Alberta’s 21 Native Friendship Centres are the main program and service providers for Indigenous people’s living in rural and urban communities around the province. Since Friendship Centres were incorporated between the 1960’s-2000’s, there has been no continued investment in infrastructure to support building maintenance or the construction of new facilities. As a result, many Friendship Centre buildings are in need of urgent repairs. Community education can help Alberta’s Friendship Centres, and the people they serve, to better understand their buildings and access resources for more efficient and resilient buildings. Green buildings and infrastructure are a key part of urban Indigenous resiliency amidst the changing climate.

Initiative: As a part of a multi-year project, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technologies (SAIT) Green Building Technology Access Centre (GBTAC) hosted a series of Green Building and Energy Summits at four Alberta Friendship Centres, one in each direction of the province in alignment with the sacred medicine wheel as one part of a larger project focused on retrofitting the centres to develop demonstration hubs to serve as learning and training projects for applied energy efficiency building retrofits. Along with conducting energy assessments and retrofitting the centres, the project also included a large engagement and training component, intended to facilitate cross-cultural learning and build capacity on all sides

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: Led by Fellow Melanie Ross from SAIT’s GBTAC, we provided recommendations on successful approaches to community engagement and supported the Summits through helping to strengthen relationships, supporting a deeper understanding of energy systems and technologies, building facilitator capacity, and enabling the creation of spaces for two-way learning and knowledge sharing.

Impact: Four Summits were held across the province which brought subject matter experts together with community members to increase energy literacy and empower community-level action and solutions. The summits took place at each of the four hubs in St. Paul (Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre Society), Grand Prairie (Grande Prairie Friendship Centre), Medicine Hat (Miywasin Friendship Centre) and Fort McMurray (Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre). Members of the Lab team supported and attended, and our network of Fellows and Ambassadors were instrumental in helping to shape the workshop design and in delivering impactful presentations. 

Significance: Summit participants learned about green building technologies, energy bill literacy, solar panels, and emerging technologies for businesses and more. Through open-hearted conversations, listening, and sharing stories the initiative opened many eyes to the challenges facing urban Indigenous communities across the province and highlighted the importance of energy literacy in an inclusive transition, as well as the central role reconciliation and good relations have to play in forging a better, more equitable path forward toward our shared energy future.

Download Info Sheet

Tech Stewardship for the Energy Transition

Challenge: Technology and our relationship to technology is a key component of the energy transition and the choices we make around our energy technologies will transform our world – for better and worse.  Tech Stewardship provides a means and a framework to better support individuals and groups to recognize and navigate the tensions inherent in the energy transition.

Initiative: This project built on the already successful Tech Stewardship Practice Program (TSPP) by adding voices and examples from Fellows and the Lab team, and creating a new module focused specifically on the energy transition.

An integrated online course, it gave participants the tools they need to explore the complexity and consequences of tech decisions within the rapidly changing energy transition. The program also engaged students from post secondary institutes and provided an avenue for meaningful dialogue and interaction through the program’s framework.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: We supported the creation of a Steering Group of Energy Futures Lab Fellows, which helped to develop new course content resulting in approximately 4 hours of additional material created. The material was delivered by the EFL’s Managing Director, Alison Cretney and members of the Steering Group, as well as other voices from the network who also contributed example videos articulating what they believe are critical ideas and perspectives needed to address the most pressing challenges of the energy transition.

Impact: A free pilot version of the program launched in June 2023 saw 400+ sign-ups and garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews from those who completed the course. Several participants engaged through the EFL’s network from traditional energy companies, clean tech accelerators, and post-secondary partners have expressed interest in continuing to offer the program to employees, clients and students.

Significance: By supporting change makers working in energy-related fields with a framework for applying a stewardship lens to their work, the language and tools needed to navigate tensions, as well as establishing supportive relationships with like-minded practitioners, this program has contributed to assisting the individual decisions that cumulatively have wide-ranging implications, and aligning them with a more holistic vision of a successful energy future.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels Vision, Roadmap & Action Plan

Challenge: 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.

Initiative: For this project, C-SAF and the Energy Futures Lab partnered with The Transition Accelerator.  to produce a Clean Competitiveness Roadmap. A shared vision, roadmap and action plan was developed through a co-creative process that identified priority actions and investments for sustainable aviation fuels in Canada. 

The C-SAF Roadmap: Building a feedstocks-to-fuels SAF supply chain in Canada was released in June 2023. 

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: 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.

EFL helped created a program and process and facilitated a series of workshops to develop a shared vision, and action plan to identify priority actions and investments for sustainable aviation fuels in Canada. The Energy Futures Lab helped catalyze the ecosystem to gain alignment around vision and actions.

Through this process, a need for a roadmap to guide government and industry was realized and we worked collaboratively to support the development and release of Canada’s first SAF roadmap. 

Impact: Canada’s first SAF Roadmap was finalized and released publicly in June 2023, benefitting Canada’s aviation and aerospace sectors. C-SAF brought industry and government together to advance discussions on creating a Canadian SAF market; SAF being the best and fastest way for the aviation sector to decarbonize today. The Roadmap is helping to shape the narrative and influencing Canada’s development of a decarbonization blueprint for aviation. In addition, it has supported industry in federal government discussions around implementing biofuel incentives.

The project was also honored as a 2024 Clean 50 top project.

Significance: The roadmap is unique among global roadmaps because the foundation of the roadmap was built on an energy system in transition and sought to explore how SAF can work in coordination with other changes in the energy system. The development of tailor-made policies for aviation that support SAF production and make the investment climate in Canada competitive can drive clean economic growth, and benefit growth in sectors like biofuels as well as support regional economic development through the outlined actions as part of a national SAF value chain. Implementing the roadmap action plan has transformative potential for the aviation industry.

Download Info Sheet

Bold Vision and Roadmap for Canada’s Battery Materials Industry

Challenge: As a fledgling industry, when our work in this area began battery metals were represented by just a few players who formed a disconnected network trying to advocate in isolation for the necessary investment and regulatory framework to get Canadian production ready to capture the coming wave of global demand.

Initiative: The EFL supported the Battery Metals Association of Canada (BMAC) to connect and collaborate with individuals from 26 different organizations representing Canada’s battery value chain. Through our transformative facilitation, the group was empowered to surface, articulate and, in June 2022, publish A Bold, Transformative Vision for Canada’s Battery Metal Industry. Developing a vision with strong alignment from industry and government laid the foundation to create an industrial roadmap for Canada’s battery value chain. The group now is mobilizing to implement and drive towards the priority actions identified in the roadmap.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: By creating a Canadian strategy in collaboration with its partners, the Battery Metals Association of Canada has presented a unified voice representing the industry, and developed a roadmap of essential actions required to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity for Canada to capture a share of this rapidly growing market. Through an active outreach and government relations effort led by the Energy Futures Lab, the report has been leveraged to mobilize financial resources towards this effort across Canada.

Impact: In the space of two years, this ecosystem of previously unconnected organizations has now come to see itself as the battery value chain in Canada and is well-positioned to begin to expand its membership and take important next steps.

Significance: As a result of this newfound alignment, and BMAC’s success in promoting its vision and roadmap, the public narrative shaping actions, investments and ecosystem development for battery metals and critical minerals has shifted towards a recognition of Canada’s leadership potential and created a heightened sense of urgency to capitalize on this opportunity.

Download Roadmap 

Grid Sandbox

Challenge: In Alberta, population growth, new technologies, changing consumer behaviour, increasing extreme adverse weather events, and the rise of distributed energy resources (DERs) are changing the ways that Albertans are using energy and putting pressure on the grid.

Initiative: Grid Sandbox is a data collection and scenario-planning software testing environment that uses real customer data to create simulations of what our future energy usage will look like. It was piloted with real homes and families in parts of Alberta. The Sandbox engages with customers around a series of virtual services based on additional sensor devices that are installed in each participant’s home.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: The Energy Futures Lab supported this initiative with project management, access to the Lab network to support the advancement of the concept and other important insights into the process, as well as necessary connections to other funders and collaborators.

Impact: By empowering electricity consumers to share more detailed energy consumption data, this collaboration is supporting energy providers as they conduct more granular modeling and scenario-planning in order to better meet Albertans’ future needs from their electrical grid without having to completely overhaul costly grid infrastructure.

Significance: Commercialization and/or adoption of the Grid Sandbox supports utilities providers, energy consumers and regulators in their ability to get more targeted with respect to how interventions (e.g. policy changes, behavioural changes, incentives, etc.) will impact various parts of the system and create better electricity solutions for homeowners, a more robust electricity grid, and facilitate the adoption of digital products that enable a smoother and faster transition towards a net-zero future.

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.

Energy Futures Print Portfolio

Challenge: A majority of Albertans now believe in the need for an energy transition in Canada, however stories shared about it through political rhetoric and echoed in media continue to be starkly polarizing, often negative and demotivating. 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 and engage with it via both technical and non-technical mediums.

Initiative: The Print Portfolio and the resulting book, Reimagining Fire, stewarded by Energy Futures Lab Fellow Eveline Kolijin, encouraged 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 asked to help prompt a deeper energy discussion amongst Alberta’s arts community. To achieve this, EFL Ambassador Eveline invited 41 prominent, Alberta-based printmakers and writers to take part in an artistic venture through which they could express their understanding of the energy transition and related concepts through artistic prints, poetry, stories and essays. 

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: As a Fellow, Eveline shared her idea for this project at a Fellowship workshop which generated a lot of excitement and offers of participation. With the support of the Lab, Eveline organized a series of learning sessions that paired artists with science and energy professionals working in the area of energy transition, many drawn from the Lab’s own network. Once settled on a concept, she paired artists and writers interested in similar subjects to create a connected visual and text-based entry to the portfolio. By engaging in informative discussions with Fellows, selected writers and artists shared knowledge and ideas about Alberta’s evolving energy system and the opportunities and challenges shaping this transition. The result was the production of a physical portfolio of prints, and a publishing deal for a book featuring prints, stories, poems and essays that represent Alberta’s complex relationship to energy transition.

Impact: Eveline was approached by Millarville-based Durvile and UpRoute books who offered the opportunity to expand on the portfolio’s original content with extended writings and reproductions of the prints in a book format. Not only are the visual representations beautiful and creative interpretations of the energy system in a multitude of forms, they are accessible to the public via the paperback book, Reimagining Fire, which is available at local bookstores as well as online through major retailers like Amazon and Indigo. Bringing together the technical and energy systems knowledge of the Fellows with the creativity of artists and writers has potential to expand energy literacy and sparks new ways of thinking about how we produce and consume it. 

Significance: Reimagining Fire: The Future of Energy is now in its second Canadian print run, has been featured in numerous media, and gone on to be published in the US, with Harvard University as the book’s first US customer.
As Chris Turner notes in the forward to Reimagining Fire, “The energy transition now underway needs more stories. We need narratives of escape, survival, salvage, even (maybe especially) triumph”. By drawing in non-traditional voices and expanding narratives as part of public conversations about energy transition, this initiative has helped broaden perspectives and deepen awareness of the scientific, technological and social innovation work taking place in Alberta.

While the official scope of work for this project with the EFL concluded with the book’s publication, the project’s reach continues to grow under Eveline’s leadership. Since the book was published, there have been a series of events open to the public and readings at various events in and around Alberta from Edmonton to the Crowsnest Pass and beyond. An exhibition is planned for 2024 at the Leighton Art Gallery for the print portfolio and there are hopes to “tour” non-traditional gallery spaces across the province. Furthermore, the book has prompted discussions around the possibility of mounting a similar project in the country of Curacão!


One might claim that a book on energy arranged around a multiplicity of voices, perspectives and areas of expertise presents more problems than it solves. I’d argue that the opposite is true: that in sharing our stories and bringing together our diverse selves around a common cause as vital as this one, we begin the essential work of coming to common ground. These conversations are the foundation on which that future is built, every bit as much as the technologies we’ll chose to implement and the timescale on which we’ll decide to make the change.” – Jenna Butler, Alberta Views book review

Download Info Sheet

CCUS Ecosystem

Challenge: The implementation of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) technology is a pivotal contribution to achieving net-zero energy by 2050. However, the effective deployment of CCUS in Alberta and across Canada faces complex challenges. The lack of a shared understanding of these challenges results in fragmented interventions and hampers broader adoption and investment in the technology.

Initiative: From convening and holding conversations around the potential of CCUS, there was a realization of a need to further explore the key challenge areas to ensuring safe, sustainable and effective deployment of CCUS in Alberta, along with a need for shared understanding of the ecosystem needs to remove or reduce barriers facing this emerging industry. A desire to advance and mature the CCUS ecosystem in Alberta was advanced through a series of conversations and workshops.

A four-month process was designed and led by EFL Fellows to co-determine and stress test stakeholders’ key challenge areas hindering the safe, sustainable and effective deployment of CCUS in Alberta. Participants in both the workshops and interviews included representatives from governments, agencies, think tanks, municipal organizations, not-for-profit entities, private industry, and others representing a wide breadth of players in the CCUS space.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: Following on EFL Fellows’ interest in CCUS technologies, increasingly focused conversations emerged that the EFL helped to scope and shape into a first phase research and engagement arc. The Lab undertook research towards uncovering and articulating the pain points as well as opportunities in the CCUS system.

Because of the Lab’s trusted reputation as a non-partisan convenor and advocate for a radical middle-ground on energy issues, we were able to bring critical sector stakeholders to the table and engender a spirit of trust and openness around a subject that could be sensitive from reputational, competitive and political perspectives. 

Impact: While the contributions of this initiative represent an early phase of a longer trajectory, it is clear that establishing a coalition of key stakeholders in the utilization space, with a focus on policy advocacy and technology commercialization has the potential to help drive innovation and industry growth. Emphasizing long-term public engagement could contribute to addressing challenges around investment, subsurface dynamics, and public confidence.

Five roadblock themes were identified:

  1. De-risking investment amid carbon price uncertainty
  2. Establishing a functional subsurface system
  3. Elevating utilization
  4. Managing risks to public confidence
  5. Competition for key resources

Significance: To advance the deployment of CCUS in Alberta and across Canada, a strategic and collaborative approach will accelerate the uptake of CCUS projects. 

This work provides insight for future engagement between policy developers and industry players to provide clarity on carbon pricing, accelerating and optimizing proposed funding mechanisms. A public release of the outcome report, which outlines the 5 strategic issue themes identified through the initiative, as well as short and long-term success roadmaps, is slated for early 2024. 

Download Info Sheet

Alberta Municipal Climate Leaders

Challenge: The need for accelerated municipal climate action has emerged as an increasingly pressing issue in Alberta in recent years, as the impacts of climate change become more visible and severe, and as public acceptability and demand continues to grow. Municipal governments in Canada influence a staggering 60% of the nation’s energy use and 50% of its GHG emissions, making municipal government staff and elected officials crucial players when it comes to laying the supportive groundwork for a low carbon and resilient future in Alberta.

Initiative: Alberta Climate Leaders aims to deepen local government understanding of climate challenges specific to their contexts, enhance knowledge about impactful climate actions that can be taken now, strengthen connections among elected officials and municipal staff committed to climate action, and foster regional collaboration on climate challenges and opportunities.

Energy Futures Lab Contribution: The Energy Futures Lab supported the Community Energy Association and Municipal Climate Action Centre partnership as they develop and implement “Alberta Climate Leaders” – an integrated package of three supportive “tools” that will help Albertan municipalities accelerate the implementation of impactful climate solutions. These tools include a leadership council for elected officials (launched in Nov. 2022) and an emissions planning tool and a playbook.

Impact: The project partners built a cutting-edge emissions planning tool featuring emissions data and resilience opportunities for 415 Alberta communities. This resource will allow Albertan municipalities to focus their efforts on the emissions and climate risks with the most potential impact – and compellingly illustrate the path forward to their colleagues and community. In addition, development of a Climate Leaders Playbook showcasing high impact options for municipalities to act on energy-efficient buildings, low carbon & resilient transportation, closed loop waste systems, renewable energy and compact land use will empower municipalities to meet the challenges of a low-carbon future.

Significance: This work will continue to live on outside of the Lab. Already, project partners have seen that by providing better access to climate data, and opportunities for municipal staff and elected officials to connect, collaborate and pool knowledge and resources, climate leadership in Albertan Municipalities is rapidly growing. Leaders are becoming better connected and informed, making decisions with an increased understanding of their specific role and influence, and with a greater awareness of the high-impact opportunities readily available to them.

Download Info Sheet

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.