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Unleashing Creative Fuel for Canada’s Energy Transition

Energy futures lab
Energy futures lab
Headshot - Alison Cretney

Alison Cretney

Managing Director, Energy Futures Lab

There are some big challenges that stand between us and the kind of world we want to build 30 years from now, but few are bigger than the mindset we seem to have in Canada about energy and climate change. After all, whether you live in British Columbia and Alberta or Ontario and Quebec, you likely view these two concepts as standing largely in opposition to each other. But if we’re going to reach our environmental and economic goals and create both better jobs and a better environment for everyone, we need these two solitudes to start working together — and soon.

Take the challenge that’s presented by Alberta’s growing inventory of inactive oil and gas wells. On the one hand, these wellsites present a massive liability for our province. But while this is undeniably true, we can transform this statement by claiming that Alberta’s inactive wells present both a liability and an opportunity to innovate, to improve, and to invest. Now, instead of being looked at solely as a liability, Alberta’s inactive wells can be viewed as a potential resource — one that could, for example, be used to extract lithium from oil and gas wastewater, explore land rights in the spirit of reconciliation with First Nations communities, or serve as a plug-and-play platform for solar companies who can use the site’s existing roadways and infrastructure. By engaging a variety of expertise, we’re able to evaluate Alberta’s inactive wells challenge through different lenses and generate some surprising solutions while we’re at it.

This sort of “and” thinking is the hallmark of the Energy Futures Lab, a coalition of entrepreneurs, innovators, and community leaders that’s been working on these sorts of challenges for a while now. As a group that’s focused on finding ways to understand the energy transition, the Energy Futures Lab encourages competing perspectives to engage in a way that expands our common ground — or as we call it, the radical middle. This approach reminds us that every story, idea, or technology represents a moment of convergence, and that if we want to understand the full realm of possibilities that accompanies energy transition, we must willingly recognize and explore the interconnectedness of today’s energy system. We won’t get to our desired future by seeing climate and energy as opposing forces. But if we treat them as two sides of the same coin, we can unlock a lot of possibilities that didn’t exist before.

Transition, therefore, is a collective effort and demands that we consider the complexity and the multi-faceted nature of our relationship with energy. At the Energy Futures Lab, we’ve been doing that for more than six years. We encourage you to give it a try. You might just unleash the kind of creative fuel we need to power Canada’s energy transition.

About the Energy Futures Lab: The Energy Futures Lab (EFL) is an Alberta-based coalition of innovators and leading organizations working together to advance solutions aligned with a 2050 vision for Canada’s energy future. Powered by The Natural Step Canada (TNSC), a national charity with a mission to accelerate the transition to a truly sustainable society, the Energy Futures Lab was created to address a growing sense of polarization around energy topics in Alberta.

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