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Fostering sustainable energy transformation

Fostering sustainable energy transformation

Clean Tech and Environmental Technology

There's no one-size-fits-all tech solution to help communities transition to a low-carbon energy future, according to ACET executive director Curran Crawford. As a mechanical engineer, he's worked with a wide range of those technologies—and now, with ACET partners spanning research, finance, policy and local governments, he's ready to find community-specific solutions that work. 

Curran Crawford believes an interdisciplinary approach is crucial to implementing sustainable energy systems that are reliable, cost effective, societally driven and in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. His research history is a showcase for how visionary engineers, communities, finance experts and policy makers can pull together to create such positive change. 

A UVic mechanical engineering professor, Crawford is the founding executive director of the Accelerating Community Energy Transformation (ACET) initiative, an ambitious research program with partners across Canada, and internationally in the US, UK and EU.

"Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Globally, governments are signing international agreements, setting targets and looking in all directions for the strategies that will reduce emissions as quickly as possible. 

But while high-level work is critically important, there’s much we must do to support communities as they try to move swiftly toward low-carbon energy systems.” 

—ACET Executive Director Curran Crawford

That support is the raison d’etre of ACET, a seven-year research program that will support communities to develop, implement and assess specific place-based energy transformations that feed into national level goals. The long-term intention is that what the ACET partners learn in Canada will be shared and put into practice around the world to help communities realize their unique visions for low carbon futures. 

Crawford’s unique set of energy expertise provides a strong foundation for the multifaceted ACET. He has been at the forefront of research into wind, tidal and wave energy; direct-air and seawater CO2 capture; grid integration of electric vehicles; and micro-grid energy in remote First Nations communities. For a large, future-facing project like ACET, his vision is critical. 

“Our goal is nothing less than helping to transform community energy systems and developing scalable solutions that can be replicated around the world,” he says. “We are also nurturing the emerging great minds the world is counting on as never before.” 

Crawford has worked with colleagues in psychology, science, geography, business, environmental studies and management, public policy and economics, applying a broad systems approach to energy. He especially enjoys working with a diverse cross-section of students from co-ops to grad students and post-docs, each bringing their own lived and disciplinary backgrounds to contribute innovate perspectives and ideas to solving the energy transformation puzzle. 

As executive director of ACET, Crawford and the expansive ACET research team will work with small to medium-sized Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, both urban and rural, to identify, develop, finance and integrate breakthrough renewable energy technologies and policies, helping Canada, and the world, achieve net zero emission targets—one community at a time.

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