The University of Victoria will lead a national, multi-partner research initiative that will help get Canada to net zero—one community at a time—with thanks to an $83.6-million investment from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).
Accelerating Community Energy Transformation (ACET) is a collaborative initiative that brings together over 40 partners, including Indigenous knowledge keepers and community leaders, to create innovative place-based solutions for energy system transformation.
“It is a ‘game-changing,’ community-centric model that will place Canada at the forefront of the clean energy transition.”
—Lisa Kalynchuk, UVic’s vice-president, research and innovation
“Canada has a tremendous opportunity to lead the transition toward renewable energy-based solutions that respect and leverage local realities,” says Kalynchuk. “Locally, nationally and globally, local community leadership and Indigenous knowledge are necessary for us to achieve our decarbonization and clean energy goals. This initiative will leverage UVic’s decades of expertise in interdisciplinary and community-based research.”
ACET’s interdisciplinary research team includes expertise from engineering, geography, law, political science, Indigenous governance, public administration, business, economics and environmental studies. Informed by insights from the communities’ transitions, ACET outputs will be scaled to support national and global decarbonization efforts.
New financing models including capturing local economic benefits from renewable power have the potential to create equitable local economies that are unburdened by polluting and expensive energy. These technical and economic innovations must be accompanied by policy and governance structures that will help realize reconciliation and local self-determination.
ACET is led by UVic’s Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, in collaboration with Royal Roads University, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, the University of British Columbia and Yukon University. ACET’s vision reflects UVic’s commitment to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, SDG 3 (good health and well-being); 7 (affordable and clean energy); 11 (sustainable cities and communities); and 13 (climate action).
UBC researchers will contribute in multiple ways to ACET’s community-led approach to working with B.C. communities to identify their needs and challenges relating to low-energy transitions.
Professor Naoko Ellis is a co-lead of ACET and will lead a team of UBC researchers that includes Profs. Derek Gladwin and Maggie Low. The team will contribute to the community-level interventions of scaling solutions to address the complex adaptive challenges of energy transitions by co-creating opportunities for wellbeing with communities through holistic understanding and education. Projects will leverage UBC Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC), where researchers engage in research, development and demonstration of low-carbon clean energy technologies and carbon capture, storage and utilization technologies. CERC researchers not only conduct clean energy research and ways of communicating about this publicly, but also proactively collaborate with industrial partners to evaluate and promote promising technologies to benefit society environmentally and economically.
UBC hosts an entire ecosystem for the demonstration and deployment of low-carbon energy technologies under its “Campus as a Living Laboratory” initiative. For example, the Smart Hydrogen Energy District (SHED: led and developed by Professor Walter Mérida at MéridaLabs) can become an effective platform to test and deploy integrated sustainable energy solutions to facilitate community-scale energy transitions. The boundaries between transportation systems, energy assets, civil infrastructure and digital networks are becoming porous and transparent as urban technologies become smart and interconnected. The SHED will test novel technologies related to hydrogen production, renewable energy storage and 5G networks to enable community adoption, and fuel switching across key economic sectors. Socioeconomic and public barriers to the adoption and deployment of alternative energy paradigms will be addressed to promote clean growth in a low-carbon economy.
The goal is to get to 100 per cent renewable energies on Haida Gwaii, where ACET will support the Haida Nation in decreasing its carbon footprint and ensuring projects are done in a respectful way.
“It’s really important to start thinking of things holistically. The answers lie in Indigenous knowledge coupled with scientific knowledge, so I think a lot of our climate change solutions are going to be based in partnerships with universities.”
—Patrika McEvoy / Kwaa Tsaaps, Old Massett Village Councillor
In Canada, 79 per cent of communities lie outside major metropolitan areas. Roughly 280 communities rely on diesel for the electricity that powers everyday life. ACET will power up those communities and others around the world, while reducing their emissions, improve health and well-being and strengthen economic sovereignty. Most importantly, ACET will unlock barriers to our collective net-zero future by helping global citizens envision pathways and realize the unique aspirations of their communities.
Read this Expert Q&A with Crawford.