2018: A Good Year

Last year was a good year at the EFL. While our team is conscious that there is much to achieve in 2019, let me take a moment to acknowledge a number of accomplishments in 2018. The EFL was recognized as one of the Clean50’s Top 20 projects in Canada for 2018 for its outstanding contribution to clean capitalism. This recognition is grounds for pride in our work and evidence of the unique potential of The Natural Step Canada’s Sustainability Transition Labs overall.

Even more impressive is the progress the EFL made in four areas: advancing exemplar initiatives; sharing EFL insight to influence policy; setting up for EFL 2.0; and galvanizing leadership in Alberta and Canada to provide leadership to overcome the growing polarization on energy issues.

Advancing EFL Initiatives

Significant progress was made on the dozen exemplar initiatives in the EFL portfolio of projects in 2018. Here are a few highlights:

What began as an EFL initiative exploring how Canada’s airlines and airports could become a world leader in low-carbon air travel evolved into the WestJet Aviation Biofuel Challenge, delivered by Alberta Innovates. The challenge seeks existing or emerging technology combined with lower cost Alberta biomass to develop a viable, economic solution for producing aviation biofuel in the province.

We also launched and piloted the Energy Futures Roadshow in two Albertan communities: Crowsnest Pass and Hinton. The Roadshow brings the combined knowledge, skills, and network of the EFL to support communities in exploring and understanding their unique challenges and opportunities in the face of energy transition. Each Roadshow sparked collaborative initiatives among community members, while developing relationships and a learning cohort across Roadshow communities. We look forward to expanding the Energy Futures Roadshow to four more Albertan communities in 2019.

The EFL Accelerators were launched in 2018 as a new way of engaging the EFL community in accelerating the Lab’s exemplar initiatives alongside EFL Fellows. We attracted impressive expertise and talent to the first EFL Accelerator on Mobility in a Low Carbon Future, where we explored specific challenges facing innovators in order to unlock possibilities in four innovation areas: Biojet, Lithium, Hydrogen, and Smart Mobility.

The Growing an Alberta Lithium Industry initiative applies oil and gas expertise to unlock the potential of Alberta’s significant lithium resource from oilfield wastewater. As a fundamental component in the batteries of electronics, electric vehicles, and large-scale energy storage, lithium is anticipated to be a key material in a low-carbon economy. The EFL Accelerator session identified what is required to accelerate the current pace of sustainable lithium resource development in order to position Alberta for maximum success in the global market in the coming years.

Through the Energy.AI Workshop, we not only explored the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to enable Alberta thrive in a competitive low-carbon world, but we also succeeded in engaging the AI community to help find AI solutions to low-carbon and energy transition challenges. Learn about the Energy.AI Workshop findings and stay tuned for more accelerators that will advance EFL actions on community resilience, artificial intelligence, and Indigenous leadership in the energy sector.

Helping Policy-makers Backcast from a Desired Future

In 2018, the EFL also engaged with two critical stakeholders in the energy ecosystem – the Government of Alberta (GoA) and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) – to help them take advantage of the diversity and expertise in the EFL Fellowship to test or refine policy ideas. For the GoA, the EFL provided technical feedback to the Department of Energy for its work in developing a strategic outlook for the energy sector – aimed to enable Alberta’s transition to a low-emission economy while ensuring responsible energy development. With ERA, the EFL applied the backcasting method to review the agency’s Technology Roadmap, which guides ERA’s investment strategy for its cleantech portfolio. In both strategic reviews, the EFL and its Fellows were seen as an important source of strategic thinking because of their diverse areas of expertise and the shared “future lens” that they have created together with the EFL vision.

Setting up for EFL 2.0

We started the year without knowing for sure that the EFL would continue past 2018. We ended the year with a plan, funding, and partnerships to not only continue but deepen and extend our work together over the next three years (2019-2021). This will include changes in the program design to be able to engage more partners and people in the innovation work of the Lab, and exploring how EFL lessons and learnings might be used to extend our impact in other parts of Canada. To advance EFL 2.0’s ambitions, we have launched a third recruitment wave to attract exceptional leaders and influencers to join the EFL Fellowship.

We will officially celebrate EFL 1.0 and mark the shift to EFL 2.0 at the first EFL Summit on Feb 12. At the Summit, we will explore the EFL’s leadership role in accelerating progress in the context of the urgent need for action and the growing polarization on energy issues in Alberta and Canada.

While there is a lot to celebrate and be grateful for in 2018, there is no question that 2019 will be a challenging year. Provincial and federal elections mean heightened polarization and greater uncertainty. Regardless, the EFL is committed to continue working with all actors, governments, businesses, and communities to accelerate progress in building the energy system that the future requires of us. We ask you to join us in finding pragmatic and meaningful solutions that respond to the EFL 2.0 convening question: how can we leverage our leadership position in today’s energy system to create the energy system the future requires of us?

Spread the word on the EFL Fellowship and apply before Jan 31. See you at the EFL Summit!

Alison Cretney is Managing Director of the Energy Futures Lab.