Cascade Institute at RRU receives $9.6M for energy transition research

A small green and leafy tree seemingly grows inside a lightbulb planted in soil. Different graphic representations of renewable energy surround the bulb: wind turbines, the recycling symbol, an electrical plug, a house, a green leaf and a drop of water.

A joint initiative funded by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) will see significant investment into “Accelerating Community Energy Transformation (ACET)” research. The project’s scope includes energy transformation, clean and renewable energy technologies and solutions and knowledge sharing. The initiative will support smaller municipalities, including remote and Indigenous communities, seeking breakthroughs in implementing their energy transition as Canada works toward Net Zero emission goals.

The overall project will bring together a broad selection of recognized experts in engineering, geography, law, political science, Indigenous governance, public administration, business, economics and environmental studies. 

The Cascade Institute at Royal Roads will lead a key component of the ACET initiative: scaling up energy system innovation to the national and global level to ensure that the initiative’s benefits spread far beyond British Columbia. The institute, founded by Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon, is designed to study and address humanity’s converging environmental, economic, political, technological and health crises. 

“This work is about what we can do, together, in our local communities that might also be applied globally,” says Homer-Dixon, founder and executive director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University. “This project can improve our understanding of systemic barriers to scaling up energy transitions, and the complexity of the societal, political, economic, and environmental dynamics involved.”

The Cascade Institute will complement the ACET’s focus on community-level energy system innovation by investigating the potential for abrupt and non-linear change—and how these characteristics of social and technological systems can be harnessed to produce rapid positive change. Institute researchers will pursue new research pathways exploring the social, institutional, and worldview components of green technology research and development, investment, implementation, and adoption. The Institute’s existing project on ultradeep geothermal energy will also be integrated into this broader research program on energy system transformation.      

“There is a great need for this exact kind of work in our world,” says Philip Steenkamp, president of Royal Roads University. “As we move through a time of complexity and instability, these kinds of projects, dedicated to finding meaningful solutions for Canadians and people around the world, fill me with tremendous hope for our shared future.”

There are two demonstration projects already underway for the ACET initiative, with more communities and partners beginning projects in the fall of 2023.

Globally, as communities continue to see the effects of climate emergencies, Canada and other Paris Agreement signatories have made commitments to significant emissions reductions by 2030, with the goal of Net Zero by 2050. Advancing energy transition research in Canada is a key component of meeting Net Zero. The project has multiple phases that will unfold over several years, with a commitment to knowledge mobilization and information sharing throughout the project.

Read the Government of Canada news release about the investment in strategic research at post-secondary institutions, including the ACET initiative.

About ACET

ACET is a community-led initiative that includes: 

o Five First Nations partners 

o Five academic partners 

o Over 30 regional, national, and international partner organizations, including three local BC municipalities. 


o Council of the Haida Nation 

o Malahat First Nation 

o Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation 

o Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Government 

o Dease River Development Corporation 


Led by the University of Victoria, the ACET research team brings globally relevant, interdisciplinary expertise: 

Royal Roads University: complex energy system dynamics 

University of British Columbia: hybrid microgrids 

o  Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières: green hydrogen technologies 

Yukon University: off-grid northern communities