Getting to net zero, one community at a time
Around the world, national governments are signing international agreements, setting targets, and looking in all directions for the strategies that will achieve emissions reductions as quickly as possible.
That high-level work is critically important. But there’s much that can – and must – be done on the ground to support small- to medium-sized communities in their efforts to shift quickly to low-carbon energy. New systems will directly impact local emissions and even more importantly, will bridge the rural-urban divide that is often a barrier to societal and systemic climate action.
For such a future to become a reality in Canada, governments and researchers must partner with rural and remote communities and, critically, First Nations.
More than three-quarters of Canadian municipalities are outside major metropolitan areas, and many Indigenous peoples live in rural and remote settings. As well, 178 remote Indigenous and Northern communities are not connected to the electricity grid or natural gas infrastructure, relying on diesel fuel or outside utilities for heat and electricity.
The University of Victoria (UVic) is a key catalyst in a global rethink on how finance, policy, data, and new clean technologies can best be deployed to address climate change. In April, the federal government invested CA$83.6 million (US$62 million) in a UVic-led initiative that will catalyse game-changing research, according to Dr Lisa Kalynchuk, vice-president for research and innovation at UVic.
This new national initiative – Accelerating Community Energy Transformation (ACET) – involves more than 40 partners, five of them First Nations, who will walk alongside communities to develop solutions that fit their specific circumstances and geographies.
“UVic is playing a vital role in galvanising clean energy transition,” says Kalynchuk. “There’s so much work to be done. With ACET, we bridge the lofty climate goals set at the global and national levels with the local realities of communities.
“We are skilled and ready on so many fronts, from building and testing new technologies to exploring the social and economic impacts and unintended consequences of rapid decarbonisation and transformed economies. Collaboration is essential to creatively and courageously tackling this problem.”
Graphic composite: Julena Lovegrove
UVic’s Institute for Integrated Energy Systems (IESVic) has been partnering with coastal communities for more than a decade to explore tidal and wave energy options, micro-grid integration, and energy storage options to avoid diesel-generated electricity.
Its researchers bring knowledge and investigative skills that are essential to understanding and addressing complex problems – from harvesting the energy potential of our oceans and comparing effective policy options, to bringing investors to the table to finance a low-carbon economy.
UVic is a skilled incubator of novel ideas, and the people behind ACET have a 15-year track record of working with communities, Indigenous peoples, non-profits, the private sector and all levels of government on sustainable energy solutions.
“We’re partnering with coastal communities to explore tidal and wave energy, and looking at the potential for micro-grids that enable communities to produce their own energy and enhance climate and economic resilience,” says Dr Curran Crawford, ACET lead and director of IESVic.
“At UVic, we’re working with industry to electrify ferry fleets and develop sustainable energy models for commercial transportation, bring awareness to financing gaps in clean tech innovation, but also to push for regulatory and policy changes to accelerate implementation of high-impact climate solution projects.”
Speed is critical on every front, as is a holistic approach when it comes to helping communities transition faster to low-carbon energy systems, while supporting their unique aspirations.
The diverse partners who make up the new community-focused ACET research network understand these challenges and are committed to working together to ensure benefits eventually spread across Canada and beyond. To that end, UVic is partnering with development agencies, industry, technology accelerators and other post-secondary institutions in Canada, Europe and the United States.
The community case studies and demonstration projects that emerge from this work will provide blueprints for a better path forward and can be shared and replicated around the world.
UVic and its partners are bridging the gap between vision and action on climate change, empowering communities to lead the way to net zero.
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. Read the UVic news release about ACET here.
This article is promoted by the University of Victoria.