Well, 2016 was quite a year for Alberta.

A lingering recession due to low oil prices. Provincial climate policies announced and enacted. A couple of pipelines approved. A dramatic U.S. presidential election and shifting global geopolitics.

The EFL Fellows have been the driving force at the centre of this important work, and nothing has been so impressive to me personally as witnessing the abilities and growth of these innovators and influencers, as a group and as individuals.

2017 is already bringing more change. Alberta’s carbon levy came into effect January 1. Economists are predicting modest growth for the province. And climate-change skeptic Donald Trump is moving into the Oval Office.

As we head deeper into the year, the polarization over Canada’s energy future – and Alberta’s place in it – continues. In fact, in many ways it is intensifying, as media headlines and social media increasingly paint a picture of distinct camps arguing their respective and seemingly incompatible positions.

Finding common ground in the Energy Futures Lab (EFL)

But energy transition is not a black and white issue. Against this backdrop, the EFL is making significant progress in the colourful space we like to call “the radical middle.” A growing group of committed people have come together in the lab—boldly melding their different perspectives and experiences—to find common ground and work together to leverage Alberta’s current strengths to help shape a new energy system.

It’s not always easy—in fact it’s a lot of hard work—but we are finding solutions and, in so doing, sowing the seeds for a new public narrative to counter the polarization. We are developing collaborative projects across a range of Innovation Pathways, connecting people in a number of different sectors and increasing the general awareness of the complexity of transitioning our energy systems to a lower carbon future.

We are grateful to the extraordinary people who are engaged in and supportive of this work—the EFL Convening Partners and funders, Advisory Council, Steering Committee and the diverse group of engaged Fellows who in turn are supported by their organizations. To all of you, thank you for believing we could do this together, for working so hard to channel the generous and innovative spirit of Alberta, and for being so committed to further developing this work in 2017.

A fellowship of rising stars

The EFL Fellows have been the driving force at the centre of this important work, and nothing has been so impressive to me personally as witnessing the abilities and growth of these innovators and influencers, as a group and as individuals. Some, like Matt Beck and Ryan Robb, have changed jobs and taken on new leadership responsibilities. Others, like Meera Nathwani-Crowe and John Zhou, have been called upon increasingly for leadership within their organizations. Some, like Bruce Edgelow and Daniel Clarke, have been instrumental in helping their organizations weather the economic storm, while others, like Sean Collins and Apoorv Sinha, have forged new entrepreneurial endeavours. Audrey Mascarenhas and Alison Thompson have been tireless advocates for proven and much-needed solutions. Jennifer Martin, Anouk Kendall and Lliam Hildebrand have led their organizations to new places of opportunity. Erin Welk, Nathan Maycher, Megan Zimmerman and Gerardo Marquez have provided steadfast leadership and abundant personal energy for initiatives arising from the EFL. All of the Fellows have inspired us with their openness of spirit and the constructive and creative way that they have engaged in the work of the lab.

Calling for new voices in the radical middle

This year, we are expanding the circle and recruiting more people to join the EFL Fellows. There are many amazing people in our province doing inspiring work. Judging from the early response to the call that was issued a couple weeks ago and to the interest in other new engagement opportunities with the EFL such as the EFL Leadership Bootcamp, and the Newtonian Shift, it’s clear that there is an urge among many people to be part of something positive, constructive and future-facing. Please make sure that your networks are aware of the opportunities to get involved with the EFL.

Mark the date April 19

I invite you to spend some time on our newly revamped website to read more about how we’re answering the question: How can Alberta’s leadership position in today’s energy system serve as a platform for transition to the energy system the future requires of us? The work of the EFL Fellows will be profiled here in coming months, and announcements of the new people joining the Fellowship will also appear.

Please join the EFL community for the Energy Futures Lab Showcase in Calgary on April 19th. This will be an inspiring afternoon event at the Jack Singer Concert Hall where you can hear more from the EFL Fellows about their initiatives, and be inspired by other speakers and cultural performances. We hope to see you there to help us celebrate our common bonds to Alberta, the place and its people. More details and registration information will follow soon.

Happy New Year!

Chad Park is the Director of the Energy Futures Lab