Energy Talks

A Public Lecture Series

Energy Talks is a speaker series featuring groundbreaking research presented by experts from the University of Alberta's Future Energy Systems research initiative and Energy Systems Signature Area. Energy Talks lectures can be delivered in numerous venues across Canada, in partnership with local host organizations.

If you are interested in hosting an Energy Talks lecture, please contact indicating your organization, preferred topic(s), proposed date, and audience. Please note that due to research and teaching obligations, our research group may not be able to accommodate all requests.

Upcoming Dates

February 24, 2021 - The Big Picture: Modelling the Global Energy System and Everything Else with GCAM

Lots of people want to predict the future, but how can we do it? Computer models can help us predict the future. We use models in almost every area of government, society, business, the economy and research now. Integrated assessment models (IAM) simulate physical and economic aspects of energy, land, agricultural, climatic and water systems, and their interactions, at regional to global scales over the near to long term. These detailed computer models are intended to support sustainable provincial/national resource development and infrastructure planning, and to illustrate the potential trade-offs and comprehensive, “big picture” effects of alternative policy and technology options.

My research team is working with the Joint Global Change Research Institute, College Park, MD, and Environment and Climate Change Canada on an IAM called GCAM, the “Global Change Analysis Model”, to develop the model for Canadian use at a provincial scale. GCAM is a community (i.e. shared and openly available) model and an important international tool for scientific inquiry; hundreds of academic papers using GCAM have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals over the last 30 years.

In this presentation, I will discuss integrated assessment, GCAM, and some recent applications of the model from our research team (U of A, JGCRI, and ECCC).

Dr. Evan Davies is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada, and specializes in water resources planning and management. His research focuses on numerical simulation of the impacts of alternative management policies on water resources at scales from local to global. Recent projects have included long-term municipal water demand projections for Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, development of a systems model for analysis of long-term irrigation expansion in southern Alberta, irrigation reservoir optimization for operational use by Alberta’s irrigation districts, municipal drainage simulation for Edmonton, Alberta, and flood risk management for Calgary, Alberta. He also works in integrated assessment and its application to the water-energy-food nexus, and is helping to calibrate the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM) for climate change policy assessment in Canada. Dr. Davies received a PhD from the University of Western Ontario (2007), and a Masters degree from the University of Waterloo (2003).

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March 24, 2021 - Small But Mite-y: The Role of Soil Invertebrates To Measure Ecosystem Recovery

Our planet as we know it, is changing every single day. Natural resource exploration. Agricultural practices. The growing human footprint. Even natural disasters like forest fires and hurricanes are just a few examples of our environment is being damaged and degraded. We are losing critical habitat types and decreasing global biodiversity. There are two options when dealing with disturbed areas: we can leave it or try and fix it. The only way to fix it is through reclamation. Reclamation is the process of returning the affected area to something similar to what was there before.

When we monitor a damaged area, the current gold standard is to measure the soil and vegetation properties. This two-component approach fails to consider the complexity of an ecosystem, and research has shown that it lacks the sensitivity needed of an effective indicator. Soil invertebrates are the solution. Soil invertebrates include worms, insects, mites. They will allow for more effective and efficient reclamation monitoring. How? They are sensitive to fertilizers, changes in vegetation, and management practices. They are directly linked to ecosystem health, stability, and shorter reclamation timelines.

In my innovative research I am identifying critical soil invertebrate groups in undisturbed and damaged areas actively being reclaimed. My research is not only ground-breaking, but I am breaking literal ground and it will allow me to develop an early detection system. This can be used by various stakeholders to identify problem areas, introduce early course correction, and optimize efforts in damaged areas being reclaimed. We owe it to future generations to take care of our planet, there is no planet B.

Stephanie Ibsen likes to refer to themselves as the scientist that Edmonton built. Stephanie completed their undergraduate at MacEwan University before continuing on to the University of Alberta for graduate school. Stephanie is currently working on their PhD in Land Reclamation and Remediation and loves random fun facts. Like did you know that more than 90 percent of all living animal species are invertebrates? Yet people know so little about them! In addition to soil invertebrates, this talk will teach you all about soil, plants, and the science behind land reclamation. Our planet is being damaged, and this earth doctor is prescribing some creepy crawlers.

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Past Talks

New Year, New Tech

Explore a series of new energy technologies with the University of Alberta Future Energy Systems program. Researchers will present technologies in 5 minutes or less -- using understandable language -- then answer your energy questions!

Make lithium ion batteries better – a new anode technology

The world is electrifying. Global demand for electric vehicles and consumer electronics continues to grow. Better, longer-lasting, and more economical batteries are critical to the advancement of renewable energy and electric vehicles, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide.

Dr. Bing Cao holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Alberta. She has almost 10 years of experience in the research and development of developing new renewable energy materials and devices such as organic solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. She is the CEO and co-founder of Nanode Battery Technologies which is developing new lithium-ion battery components.

Evolution of the electric grid

From the of the Current War between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, to the present-day alternating current (AC) grid, and the future direct current (DC) smart grid, this talk introduces the fascinating stories and technologies behind the evolution of the grid and how we can make our grid system more efficient and stable.

Zhongyi Quan received the PhD degree in Energy Systems in 2019 from University of Alberta. After a year of postdoc research, he founded Electronic Grid Systems, a spinoff startup of UofA, and he is now trying to commercialize the microgrid technologies to make our grid systems greener.

From waste grease to your next flight trip

Can kitchen grease and waste cooking oil be something other than a nuisance in need of disposal? An exciting project at the University of Alberta is focusing on converting waste greases into high-quality jet fuel using a patented Alberta-developed technology. After processing in high temperature and pressurized vessels, kitchen grease, crop oil, and tallow could all help fuel your next flight!

Yeling Zhu is a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Alberta. Dedicated to providing solutions for agricultural and industrial operators, he has expertise in developing technologies that create values from Alberta-sourced sawdust, waste materials in the cattle rendering industry, and waste grease. He believes that the derived smart materials and low-carbon fuels help support Alberta's sustainable development.

Yes! Energy Transition In My Backyard

Community-led grassroot organizations play a significant role in the socio-technical energy transition of our society. Community Leagues in Edmonton are a case in point. Community Leagues are a unique form of grassroots community-centered and volunteer-driven organization that has existed in Edmonton since 1917. Following an interest from their respective communities, Community Leagues have worked towards a number of initiatives of adopting and diffusing the energy transition idea. Solar panel installations and energy audits of the community halls are to name a few. These initiatives are undertaken to make energy transition ideas tangible in the neighborhoods, as well as encourage homes and local institutions to do the same.

With Professor Sandeep Agrawal, Director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning and Associate Chair in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Dr. Neelakshi Joshi, postdoctoral fellow in the Urban Environment Observatory.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about the work.

Energy and Sustainability In Our Communities (October 28, 2020)

Renewable energy technologies are giving us new ways to incorporate sustainability into our lives. How will these changes play out in our communities, and what could they mean for our society’s relationship with energy? In this session graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from the University of Alberta’s Future Energy Systems program will share research that explores the interface of new energy technologies and our everyday lives, and how different approaches to energy in our communities can promote sustainability throughout our society. This panel was presented at the University of Alberta's Sustainability Awareness Week on Oct. 28, 2020


Dr. Neelakshi Joshi, Postdoctoral Fellow, Urban Environment Observatory, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

Muhammad Saad Arshad, MSc Student, Department of Mechanical Engineering and 2019 Sustainability Scholar.

Andrea Miller, MSc Student, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology.

Solutions For Oil Wells: Solvents, An Enabling Technology for Cleaner Heavy Oil Production (October 28, 2020)

With the tightening of environmental regulation, reduced oil prices, and higher capital costs for new projects, the future of oil sands-related activities will likely rely on developing and applying new technology to improve recoveries and efficiencies of ongoing production operations. Solvent technologies offer promising potential for reducing water and energy consumption in heavy oil production processes. In this talk, we will explore some basic concepts about solvent-based heavy oil recovery. We will also discuss different challenges or barriers associated with this technology, as well as various research directions that may help us overcome those challenges.

With Associate Professor Juliana Leung, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Juliana's work.

Best of Both Worlds: How Bacteria Can Reduce GHGs And Lead To More Sustainable Energy (September 30, 2020)

The world is facing a broad range of challenges that redefine our lives and activities. On one side are environmental problems, many of which come down to the staggering amounts of greenhouse gas released by modern society. For instance, methane gas, which is much more potent than carbon dioxide, is emitted as waste by many industrial processes and is a large contributor to climate change. On the other hand, we are at a crossroad when it comes to energy: our needs keep increasing while we try to find more sustainable ways to produce it. Luckily, there may be an answer for both: bacteria. How can minuscule microbes help solve two of the biggest challenges facing our world?

With Professor Dominic Sauvageau, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Dominic's work.

Carbon Dioxide Capture: Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions (August 19, 2020)

Power generation and manufacturing processes are the major contributors to CO2 emissions. Currently, several approaches are being considered to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions including improving process efficiencies, fuel switching and renewable energy sources. Carbon capture and storage/utilization, where CO2 from industrial emissions and intermediate streams is concentrated and either stored or utilized, is considered as a viable and scalable mitigation option. This talk will provide an introduction to this technology, address key challenges and developments, and discuss the negative-emission technology of direct air capture that aims to concentrate CO2 from the atmosphere.

With Professor Arvind Rajendran, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Arvind's work.

The Currents: From War to Harmony (July 29, 2020)

With Dr. Hao Tian, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

From the war between alternating and direct currents to future grid technology, electricity is a central part of our lives. Power electronics, technology to control power conversion, play a role enabling the modern grid and address many challenges of our current and future system. Join Hao Tian, PhD, from the ELITE (Electronic and Intelligent Grid) Research Lab explore the wars of currents, power electronics and the future grid.

Power on Demand: Renewable Energy Storage (June 9, 2020)

With Professor Pierre Mertiny, Department of Mechanical Engineering, part of the University of Alberta Alumni Webinar Series.

How do we store energy? Chemical batteries may come to mind, but there are other options for the energy system of the future. Pierre and his team are currently working with the City of Edmonton to study flywheels as a means to store energy for a new fleet of electric buses that will be on the road by 2030.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Pierre's work or here to read about the electric bus project.