Digital Innovation for Communities in Transition

How might we accelerate collaboration in Alberta’s digital innovation ecosystem to support communities in the energy transition?


Defining the Challenge

The Issue: Communities and regions across Alberta are wrestling with how to meet low-carbon and energy transition goals while ensuring access to safe and reliable energy.

The Opportunity: Technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain can be harnessed to support communities in the transition to a low-emissions future.

Response to the Innovation Challenge: A collaborative platform known as Energy.AI was created to gather diverse groups of stakeholders who share a desire to collaboratively unlock digital innovation solutions in service of energy transition.

Unlocking the Challenge

Although there is a strong connection between digital innovation, energy, and climate change, a divide has traditionally existed between innovators working in energy and digital advancements. As a result of this disconnect, many of these innovators have struggled to collaborate in an effective way. Highlighting the need to bridge these two fields, this Innovation Challenge aims to identify and develop collaborative initiatives that unlock technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to address energy transition and climate change challenges in communities.

This challenge is guided by the following question: How might we accelerate collaboration in Alberta’s digital innovation ecosystem to support communities in the energy transition?

In response to this Innovation Challenge, identified by Energy Futures Lab Fellows and Partners, the Energy Futures Lab has created a collaborative platform to gather digital, energy, and community stakeholders who share a desire to work together to unlock digital innovation solutions in service of energy transition. The platform, developed by the Energy Futures Lab with the support of the RBC Foundation, is referred to as Energy.AI.

Innovation Approach

Each year, stakeholders involved in Energy.AI work to identify a shared focus to which they will apply the following approach: 

 Problems Workshop: In this workshop, participants explore energy transition challenges and opportunities and work to identify common and important problems that could be solved using digital innovation. These problem areas tend to be social in nature, and emphasize a need for collaboration, shared responsibility, and equity in energy transition.

System Mapping: System mapping is an exercise used to deep dive into identified problem areas to explore relationships between system players and leverage points, revealing the complexity of our current system and the nature of social innovation. 

Ideas Workshop: In this workshop, participants identify fundamental system changes needed in today’s world, and then brainstorm and prioritize innovative and collaborative ideas to address these system needs. 

Initiatives Workshop: In this workshop, participants work to advance the most promising digital and social innovation opportunities while further building connections and awareness of the ecosystem in which they’re working. After these workshops, participants continue to test, refine and launch the ideas with the support of a larger community of collaborators.

What We’ve Accomplished

  • Engaged a diverse group of over 400 people from over 100 organizations who converged on a set of social barriers inhibiting the use of digital innovation to assist communities in transition.
  • A current set of five bold ideas were identified by a large group of willing collaborators who want to advance and advocate for these ideas. The five bold ideas address existing barriers in the energy ecosystem.
  • The initiation and continued development of the Grid Sandbox project, a real-world platform to test sophisticated software systems to manage rapidly expanding distributed energy resources, such as solar panels on roofs, electric vehicles, battery storage.

The initiation and successful completion of the Blockchain for Community Aggregation of Offsets project to test and refine a blockchain system to provide additional revenues for small rural renewable energy producers.

Past workshops and reports:

  • Energy.AI Workshop (Sept 25, 2018)
  • Energy.AI2 Workshop (June 19, 2019)
  • Energy.AI3 Accelerator (Oct 1, 2019)
  • Energy.AI ‘Communities in Transition’ workshop series (Fall 2020 to Dec 2021)

The Energy Futures Lab featured this initiative as one of the Five Big Ideas for Alberta’s Economic Recovery. View the recording of the virtual conference here.

Challenge Partners

The Energy Futures Lab is a collaborative network of partners and innovators working together to accelerate the transition to an energy system that is fit for the future. Our work is powered by The Natural Step Canada. Energy.AI is made possible by the generous support of the RBC Foundation’s Tech for Nature program.


For questions or inquiries please contact:

Matt Mayer
Lead, Energy.AI, Energy Futures Lab