Building Pathways OPP Project 2022

The future is electric but where will all that electricity come from? Is it clean or carbon-intensive? Is its supply consistent or does it rise and fall with the sun and wind? What are the implications for land use and water availability?

As people move away from fossil fuels to run their cars, heat their homes and power their buildings, finding a pathway to a low-carbon future is crucial.

Just as essential is finding not one but a variety of greener power sources.

Decarbonization of BC’s Energy System is focused on those challenges as part of PICS’ Opportunity Project Program (OPP). Working with the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, BC Hydro and Renewable Hydrogen Canada, the research will focus on:

  • opportunities and costs associated with decarbonizing British Columbia’s power systems;
  • cost and performance targets for emerging hydrogen technologies;
  • insights on investment pathways for alternate energy infrastructure;
  • implications of different technology pathways for water and land use; and
  • modelling and guidance for government.

The variety of power sources is one primary consideration, from solar and wind to tidal and geothermal — even nuclear.

“Really, it’s planning out our system so we can use as many of those different pieces to make the system work effectively,” says Taco Niet, principal investigator on the project. “There’s no silver bullet. We’re not going to build more hydro dams [especially outside of BC] and solve all our problems.”

Whatever the source, two key issues are consistency of power supply and equitability of its opportunities and benefits.

Overlapping types of power generation as well as improved electricity storage could address the former while studying the varied effects of different choices — for example, solar panel subsidies that only benefit the rich — deals with the latter.

“We must try to put together pathways toward a future where we can decarbonize while at the same time having a system that’s stable and going to work for everyone,” Niet says.

Opportunity Project: Began March 15, 2022 / Project duration: three years

Research Partners

Principal Investigators

Taco  Niet

Taco Niet

Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, SFU

Researchers

Students

Sina Motalebi

Sina Motalebi

ΔE+ Research Group, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, SFU

Solution Seekers

  • Aeolis Wind Power Corp.
  • BC Ministry of Energy and Mines
  • Renewable Hydrogen Canada Corp.