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USask graduate student Anne Brigitte Lim was part of a team that placed second overall in the 2021 Geneva Challenge. (Photo: Submitted)

USask graduate student fosters innovation in energy and food security

University of Saskatchewan (USask) School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) student Anne Brigitte Lim is investigating solutions to global food crises and the use of alternative energy sources.

Lim was recently part of a finalist team in the 2021 Geneva Challenge, where graduate students from around the world create strategies to address global issues such as environmental sustainability, poverty and malnutrition. The contest is hosted annually by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. 

“For the Geneva challenge, we explored the crises of food insecurity and malnutrition in my home country, the Philippines,” said Lim, who was a member of a team representing Asia alongside two graduate students from the National Chengchi University in Taiwan. 

The federal government in the Philippines currently uses a paper ‘food pass’ given to food suppliers and transporters to enable their timely passage through community quarantine areas. The purpose of the program is to ensure food is delivered to citizens regardless of lockdowns. 

“We proposed creating a smart phone application called DAAN—which means ‘road,’ ‘way’ or ‘to pass’ in Filipino—to digitize the food pass issued by the national government,” said Lim. “By digitizing the food pass, DAAN would promote systemic co-ordination, efficient logistics, and data driven planning to reduce food waste and food prices.” 

The team’s project was given one of five presentation spots in the final stage of the Geneva Challenge and placed second overall against teams from around the world. 

Lim said energy systems also contribute heavily to global food security through mass production and transportation of food sources, and achieving food security is tied to the focus of her master’s thesis research. 

Lim is a master’s of sustainability student at USask where she is part of the Community Appropriate Sustainability Energy Security (CASES) Partnership Program, a research initiative that collaborates with Indigenous communities to develop sustainable energy strategies that also support Indigenous economic and social values. 

“Considering the social aspect of energy systems is a relatively new concept. In the past, the main focus of researchers, practitioners and policy makers were economic and technological considerations,” said Lim. 

“However, now that renewable energy technologies make it possible for communities and even individuals to produce their own electricity, the social dynamics of energy systems has come under the limelight.” 

The research will work to develop a conceptual framework to define the social value of renewable energy in rural Indigenous communities. 

Being able to define the social value of CRES (community renewable energy systems) would allow researchers to further develop this concept and propose ways to quantify social value for policy making and funding,” said Lim. 

“If social value is considered when planning for energy system development, more public investments, grants and subsidies could go to CRES that would benefit citizens in rural and remote areas by creating energy services that could increase individual capacities and well-being.” 

Lim’s preliminary results suggest that establishing community renewable energy systems such as solar, wind and hydro power plants will allow rural and remote communities to own their energy systems. It also presents an economic opportunity for rural communities to manage and control their own energy systems.  

CRES presents an alternative ownership model to the traditional utilities that burn coal, oil or gas to provide electricity and operate as monopolies,” said Lim.  

CRES also create social values such as energy independence and additional skills for new jobs, which could increase individual and societal capacities and well-being.” 

CRES tend to emit less greenhouse gases and utilize limitless resources such as sunlight and wind. These alternatives to traditional fossil fuel-based energy are more environmentally friendly and are easily renewable. 

She plans to interview community members from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation to build their insights into a CRES conceptual model for further energy security research efforts. The work is supervised by Dr. Greg Poelzer (PhD) from SENS and Dr. Bram Noble (PhD) from the USask College of Arts and Science Department of Geography and Planning. 

I would like my generation and future generations to enjoy the beauty of our natural environment and continue to have or improve our current level of comfort in life,” Lim said. 

The research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

This article first ran as part of the 2021 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the USask Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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