The series: The Emerald Awards for outstanding environmental initiatives in Alberta will be handed out Thursday, June 4, at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre. Profiles of select award finalists will appear on Saturdays for five weeks leading up to the awards. For more information on the awards go to emeraldfoundation.ca
There’s a green energy revolution happening in this country, and a lot of it is taking place in Alberta.
David Dodge will be the first to admit it’s not often the words “green energy” and “Alberta” are found in the same sentence. But the host and producer of Green Energy Futures, a multi-media storytelling project that’s been running for three years, is working to change that.
“We may not be the most favourable place for clean energy, which I find an absolute mystery,” says Dodge, who is based in Edmonton. “The best political thing we could do in this province would be to rock both conventional and innovative alternative energies.”
Dodge has spent the past three years travelling across Canada telling stories about green energy. He’s chronicled the story of a co-operatively owned turbine in downtown Toronto, profiled Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia — he calls it the greenest little campus in all of Canada — and talked wind and solar power with Alberta entrepreneurs. In the process, Green Energy Futures has earned an Emerald Award nomination in the public education and outreach category.
“The whole idea for this project came from the thought that there wasn’t a lot of attention being paid to solutions,” says Dodge. “Couple that with the fact that there is an overwhelming interest in us developing clean energy, in us working on solutions, in us moving towards a transition that includes more clean energy.”
“The idea was to go out and find those stories and find out how successful some of these technologies are, find out how good they are, and find out how much impact they’ve been having.”
In Alberta, Dodge points to the Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce — the first commercial net-zero office building in Canada. (Net-zero buildings produce as much energy as they consume.)
The building in south Edmonton is 30,000 square feet, cost $10.5 million and incorporates solar panels, geothermal technology and windows that actually open.
“I’m blown away by it and I know this stuff,” Dodge says.
There are dozens more examples in Alberta — an urban cogeneration project in downtown Calgary, energy-efficient schools, Canada’s first concentrated solar thermal energy plant in Medicine Hat, or a Calgary neighbourhood called EchoHaven whose 25 homes are certified at a minimum EnerGuide rating of 84 and produce zero greenhouse-gas emissions.
Landmark Building Group, which builds 1,000 homes a year, told Green Energy Futures it plans for its new builds to all be net-zero ready — meaning they just need solar panels — by 2015.
“I can’t think of a story where the pace of innovation has been this quick,” he says.
Despite producing more than 100 episodes, Dodge says Green Energy Futures has tonnes more stories to tell about innovations going on in Canada’s communities.
“We haven’t even finished telling the basic stories,” he laughs. “I could probably do stories on solar every week for the next couple years and we would still just begin to scratch the surface.”
The challenge, Dodge says, is getting people to realize the potential of these new energies.
“They’re much more mature than people know,” he says. “Solar has exploded. It’s growing faster than anyone predicted and will be a significant piece of our energy pie.
“There’s a huge inertia out there and yet there’s a very strong interest among the populous in doing these things better,” he continues. “So people need to understand that the solutions are valid.”
And in a province known for its reliance on oil and gas, Dodge says it’s especially important to teach the public that the two can co-exist. He points to an interview he conducted with an employee of Suncor Energy who drives a Tesla (an electric car.)
“It’s not a black and white world,” he said.
“The stereotype is that Alberta only cares about oil and gas … I’m not anti-oil and (anti-)gas,” he explains. “But I am pro-progress and pro-green energy.”
“If you match the old with the new you can alleviate a lot of the issues that we face today and what I’ve learned is people are interested in doing that.”
ABOUT THIS CONTENT: This story was produced by Postmedia’s editorial department as a result of the Alberta Emerald Foundation’s interest in this topic. The Alberta Emerald Foundation was not given the opportunity to put restrictions on the content or review it prior to publication.