New UBC Research Centre Accelerates Hydrogen Energy Innovation in British Columbia

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has launched a $23 million Smart Hydrogen Energy District (SHED). Equipped with a hydrogen fueling station, the facility is expected to pave the way for breakthroughs in critical energy research.

SHED will produce hydrogen using solar and hydropower to operate a water electrolyzer, making the process completely green and renewable. It is one of the first initiatives in Canada to combine hydropower, solar and hydrogen power in one location, combining these renewable energy sources into a unified micro-grid. SHED will be the first hydrogen station in the province to service light and heavy vehicles.

“UBC Smart Hydrogen Energy District (SHED) is another step forward in building a clean economy and creating new opportunities for British Columbians,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “By integrating energy, transportation and design, SHED not only supports our CleanBC goals, but also positions British Columbia as a world leader in the hydrogen economy. Projects like this demonstrate our commitment to clean energy and a prosperous future for generations to come.”

(From left to right): UBC President Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Minister Josie Osborne and UBC Professor Walter Merida. (UBC Applied Science/Paul Joseph)

“We are grateful to the provincial and federal governments, private sector partners and others for their critical investment in this research facility, which further strengthens UBC’s position as a world leader in climate solutions and energy system innovation,” said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon. “This new space provides UBC researchers with significant new research and education opportunities that will help shape our society and economy for years to come.”

“Hydrogen has the potential to play a key role in Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Dr. Walter Mérida, SHED research leader and professor of mechanical engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science.

“With SHED, we are demonstrating hydrogen as a bridge between renewable electricity and sustainable energy services. As technologies become smarter and more connected, we can stop thinking about gas, electricity and digital networks as separate entities.”

SHED combines different technologies within a city block, serving as a model for compact urban planning. Rooftop solar panels power both a hydrogen fueling station and nearby EV charging stations. Bidirectional charging will allow parked EVs to draw energy from the grid and feed excess stored electricity back into the grid during peak times when there is additional demand for energy.

A secure 5G network connects different SHED systems, enabling researchers to create digital simulations for energy, transportation and urban planning research.

SHED has received generous funding from the following partners:

  • Ministry of Energy, Mining and Low Carbon Innovation – $8.3 million in low carbon fuel credits
  • Government of Canada – $5.0 million
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation – $4.6 million
  • British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund – $4.6 million
  • $800,000 from industry partners, including HTEC

“UBC’s tradition of nurturing innovators continues as we celebrate the grand opening of the Smart Hydrogen Energy District,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada (PacifiCan). “This is one example of groundbreaking work happening across our province that is moving us toward a net-zero emissions future. With the support of the Government of Canada, homegrown innovation is driving economic growth for British Columbians today and for years to come.”

Lou Bosshart, UBC Media Relations

Featured image: SHED hydrogen refueling station. (UBC Applied Science/Paul Joseph)