This past Sunday I attended briefings and the big announcement about Alberta’s new Climate Leadership Plan. Many friends of the Energy Futures Lab (EFL) were also in attendance – Fellows, partners, and Steering Committee members. I was asked on a number of occasions, “what does this mean for the Energy Futures Lab?”
“The Alberta Climate Leadership policies have now clearly defined the rules of the game for many elements of the transition. Transition is now public policy, and we now have some of the important timelines and parameters.”
The question arises because the Energy Futures Lab was originally conceived almost two years ago in a vastly different context. The kinds of policy announcements we heard this week were not at all on the radar, and the public narratives were dominated by polarized debates.
What a difference a few months can make.
The short answer: This is excellent news for the EFL and only increases the timeliness of the initiative. The chance for the EFL to have a major impact have increased dramatically with this big shift in the policy landscape.
The convening question for the EFL is: how can Alberta’s strengths in today’s energy system serve as a platform for the transition to the energy system that the future requires of us?
A key word in this question is transition. The Alberta Climate Leadership policies have now clearly defined the rules of the game for many elements of the transition. Transition is now public policy, and we now have some of the important timelines and parameters.
In the old world, the EFL Fellows might have spent a good portion of their collaborative effort advocating for the kinds of policy changes that would remove barriers and help scale the innovations being created in the Lab. Now, the bulk of those policies are in place just as we’re getting out of the starting gates. It’s like a giant gust of wind filling the innovation sails of the Lab. With the transition policy context so firmly in place, we can focus our efforts less on public policy advocacy, and more on social, technological, and financial innovations as well as the new partnerships needed to make the transition happen.
Moving forward, together
The Fellowship is made up of dozens of innovators and influencers from across a wide spectrum of groups who touch the energy system in different ways. They will work together in an innovation ecosystem over the next three years to generate new partnerships, business models, prototypes, resource flows, collaborations with First Nations, and other initiatives to help accelerate the transition.
We can already see that a number of early prototypes generated in the first workshop are directly relevant to specific policy elements in the Alberta Climate Leadership framework. For example, one group has already initiated an early prototype on rapidly decarbonizing oil sands production – directly relevant in light of the newly announced 100MT oil sands emissions cap. Another group has formed to prototype innovative new financing mechanisms for renewable energy – highly relevant in light of the announcement to replace the province’s coal-fired power production with renewable energy.
A second big reason for optimism relates to the broader cultural landscape. The Government of Alberta will need to engage Albertans in a way that builds on the support expressed by many parties this week in order to help solidify this policy direction in our provincial culture. Here, too, the Energy Futures Lab will be a big help.
The public engagement activities of the EFL will capture imaginations and engage new constituencies in understanding and connecting with energy transition. The Lab will help Albertans feel that energy transition is something they are a part of, instead of something being done to them.
Game Changers: The Energy Futures Lab Fellows
This starts with the Fellows. This amazing, diverse group will become some of the leading public voices for energy transition in the province. Their work and stories will reach across multiple platforms and channels, beginning with their own networks and constituencies. Direct public engagement activities, including an energy transition simulation game and a series of in-person and online learning experiences will offer multiple ways for people and organizations across Alberta to engage and connect.
Finally, how prepared do organizations feel they are for the new world? The recent announcement will leave many with an urgent need to pay far greater attention to the strategic implications of energy transition for their organizations. The organizational engagement stream of the EFL, currently being piloted with Suncor Energy, will ultimately offer organizations opportunities to draw on the content and insights of the EFL to engage their teams in an internal process that mirrors the experience of the EFL Fellows.
In short, the Energy Futures Lab is poised to become a key vehicle to support implementation of the policy direction announced this week and offers a way to meaningfully engage Albertan organizations and citizens in the exciting new direction set out by the Government of Alberta.
I know I’m not the only one involved with the Energy Futures Lab feeling very fortunate to have the opportunity to play a meaningful role in helping usher in the future that is calling to us.
The article, What does the Alberta Climate Leadership announcement mean for the Energy Futures Lab was written by Chad Park, Executive Director of The Natural Step Canada.