Hybrid energy initiatives and the mediation of energy futures.

Megan Egler

While fossil fuel extraction in North America is beset with shady politics, social injustice, and environmental abuse, there is also increasing scrutiny on renewable energy projects. Uneven power dynamics continue throughout energy transitions when new energy initiatives fail to challenge capitalist logics. This study joins scholars in ecological economics and political ecology in attempting to think about energy production and consumption in radically different terms. It asks, in what ways do sociotechnical innovations within energy transitions reify exploitative relationships within exploited landscapes, and in what ways can they help to transform extractive economies into regenerative futures. As a point of focus, I introduce hybrid energy initiatives (HEIs) as transition tools in fossil fuel economies, capable of holding ambiguous and multiple motives, interpretations, and visions of the future. HEIs are initiatives that utilize fossil fuel infrastructure and landscapes for renewable energy projects. Examples include using inactive oil and gas wells for energy storage or geothermal production, siting solar facilities on former mine sites, and recovering rare earth minerals from fossil fuel waste for use in renewable technologies. HEIs can act to shift energy consumption toward low or no-carbon sources and introduce new models of energy production while leveraging existing infrastructure and correcting environmental harms. They can also help extractive companies obscure historical damages, forgo environmental liabilities, and collect government subsidies. They are growing in popularity across energy corporations, governments, universities, and communities where fossil fuel extraction occurs within Canada and the United States. Drawing on the power of narrative, sociotechnical imaginaries, and case studies in Alberta, Texas, and the region of Appalachia, a review of HEIs as important agents in both the material and sociocultural aspects of energy transition is presented.

Carbon Offsetting-A Change Driver or A Mere Greenwashing?

Lookman Issa

As the world becomes receptive to the use of market-based instruments (MBIs) to achieve their climate change mitigation goal, the idea of carbon offsetting is intrinsic to the use of MBIs. The use of carbon offsets (both for regulatory compliance purposes and voluntary reasons) has become popular due to their flexibility in allowing for emissions abatement without any geographical barrier.

Despite its popularity, the policy has been marred with controversies and critiques due to poor governance issues around its implementation. This paper sets out to provide a comprehensive discourse on carbon offsetting by considering the notions of both pro-carbon offsets and anti-carbon offsets in the literature. It further attempts to establish a balance objective view of the policy-based empirical evidence that is reported in the literature. It concludes by reconciling both notions and further suggests ways to improve the current state of play in carbon offsets governance.

Microclimate Modeling to Promote Health Informed Heat and Air Quality Mitigation Strategies.

 Jeffrey Wilson   Additional Authors: Mohamed Dadir, Umberto Berardi

The combination of Urban Heat Island (UHI), heatwave events, and poor air quality leads to elevated heat stress for urban dwellers, air quality-related health issues, and increased building cooling consumption. The magnified heat stress and elevated concentrations of air pollutants increase the heat and air quality-related morbidity and mortality levels. This presentation presents results of a study investigating the role of urban upgrading techniques in mitigating extreme heat events and poor air quality using evidence-based predictions for forecasted community health records based on microclimate enhancements and urban heat and air quality mitigation strategies. The applied approach assesses the impacts of localized urban heat mitigation techniques and microclimate environmental behaviour on community health responses. The study integrates environmental measures and health records focusing on hot and warm seasons for a typical urban typology of the York Region in the GTA, Southern Ontario, Canada. The statistical modelling integrates historical data on meteorological measures (daily humidex values), air pollutants concentration (ground-level ozone, O3, and fine particulate matter, PM2.5), and population daily health records (mortality records and emergency department visits). The historical dataset is built using daily records for the York Region for 17 years (from 2003 to 2019). Results indicate a strong association among hot ambient conditions, poor air quality, and increased mortality rates, and emergency department visits. The predicted performance schemes show significant potential in urban energy savings and improving public health by enhancing outdoor thermal environment and air quality levels through applying heat and air quality mitigation techniques.