This social innovation lab has a vision for Alberta’s sustainable energy future

Jul 29 2020, 1:00 pm

RBC Tech for Nature is a multi-year, global initiative by the RBC Foundation dedicated to preserving the planet’s greatest wealth — our natural ecosystem. It supports new ideas, technologies, and partnerships to address and solve pressing environmental challenges.

Already in our lifetime, we’re seeing the effects of climate change on our environment. Canada’s temperature, in particular, is rising faster than the global average. The country is home to vast natural resources that Canadians rely on to generate livelihoods and build communities. The challenge is to ensure we develop and use those resources in the most efficient and responsible ways possible, harnessing their proceeds to transition to the energy sources of tomorrow.  And now, there is an unprecedented opportunity to reduce emissions using the innovations coming out of Canada’s energy sector.

This is what Canadian charity The Natural Step is on a mission to achieve: a balanced and inclusive approach to taking on climate change. Its award-winning Energy Futures Lab (EFL) platform aims to accelerate the transition to a sustainable energy future in Alberta –leveraging their diverse network of partners, including many of Alberta’s established energy players.


Through their platform, the EFL allows innovators to create and collaborate on sustainable energy solutions for Canada’s future. Energy.AI is a key initiative of the EFL that aims to develop collaborative partnerships across the energy and technology sectors. The goal for these partnerships is to have machine learning and artificial intelligence address environmental challenges and climate change — within the oil, gas, and power industries.

They will then aim to transform this collected information into models that can be used in future planning with more sustainable objectives. There is a wealth of data in the transportation and building sectors, and the EFL uses AI and blockchain technologies to explore within these industries.

“Alberta is home to a wealth of AI and energy innovators, and early on what we found was a need, and opportunity, to bridge these worlds together to help solve pressing challenges,” said Pong Leung, lead strategist at Energy Futures Lab and Energy.AI’s project lead.

When all of this information is assessed and presented clearly, it can help organizations gain a better understanding of environmental issues, be more efficient, make better decisions, and save money.

Over the next three years, the EFL plans to expand its Energy.AI initiative by growing its digital innovation portfolio, adding up to 15 new collaborative solutions. The EFL also hopes to develop a collaboration roadmap and share the lessons and wins that evolved from Energy.AI.

Energy Futures Lab/Facebook

The impacts of the Energy.AI expansion program will be felt primarily in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, in addition to Alberta’s smaller municipalities. In the EFL’s portfolio of energy projects, Energy.AI has explored six climate change solutions across different sectors, and the team is confident about its plans to continue innovating.

But technology alone is not enough, and the EFL engages industries, government, and regulatory bodies to coordinate action and build on its innovations. It shares news and updates about Energy.AI across its social media pages and website, and its resources are also being used in workshops and studies.

“At RBC, we believe climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. The actions we take today can prepare us with the solutions needed to protect our shared future,” said Valerie Chort, vice-president, corporate citizenship at RBC. “We’re proud to work with The Natural Step to take on climate change in Alberta and accelerate the transition towards a truly sustainable society.”

The EFL is set to continue raising awareness of the economic and climate-beneficial opportunities that AI and machine learning bring about for the energy sector. This, in turn, can help bridge the divide in Canada’s conversation around climate and energy — a factor that can act as a barrier to climate action.

RBC believes that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time — and that technology and data have the power to transform and improve our world with long-term solutions. That’s why RBC Tech for Nature is bringing technology experts, the private and public sector, and charitable partners together to work toward solving our shared environmental challenges. Learn more about RBC Tech for Nature on their website.

The initiative is a core pillar of the RBC Climate Blueprint — an enterprise approach to accelerating clean economic growth and supporting clients in the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

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