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BC Cleantech Cluster Initiative - Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Roundtable Recap

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Dec 10th, 2019

By Foresight

BC Cleantech Cluster Initiative - Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Roundtable Recap

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The BC Cleantech Cluster Initiative team at Foresight, in partnership with the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and Zen Clean Energy Solutions, hosted a roundtable discussion with a select group of leaders from industry, government and SME community known for their interest and expertise in scaling the hydrogen and fuel cell industry.

The event was held at the Vancouver Economic Commission boardroom on Nov 20, 2019.

The BC Hydrogen Study

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The roundtable began with a presentation about the BC Hydrogen Study published in Sept 2019 by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

(The BC Hydrogen Study was conducted by Zen Clean Energy Solutions, the Institute for Breakthrough Energy and Emission Technologies and G&S Budd Consulting Services. The study was funded by the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, BC Bioenergy Network and FortisBC.)

Sabina Russell from Zen Clean Energy Solutions gave an overview of the study, and its recommendations/analysis of the hydrogen economy in British Columbia.

The study is well worth downloading and reading, as it represents a current and comprehensive look at both the current state of the industry, and what needs to happen to build a vibrant and robust hydrogen energy pathway BC that will help decarbonize our energy sources. As it says in the study:

“Direct electrification and increased supply of renewable natural gas will not be able to displace all this energy to transition the Province to lower carbon and ultimately renewable energy sources. Hydrogen will play a critical role, particularly in energy intensive applications that are most reliant on fossil fuels today such as long-range transportation and heating.”

The Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association

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Mark Kirby, President and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association gave an overview presentation about the hydrogen/fuel cell industry in Canada and framed the discussion around 4 key questions or themes/challenges that the industry is facing:

  1. Drive Faster/Fill Faster - tech solutions need to be able to drive and fill faster

  2. Process Greener/ Burn Cleaner - tech solutions need to process greener and/or burn cleaner

  3. Speed/Scale - we have to scale up fast across multiple industries

  4. Economic Opportunity - we have to define economic opportunities, business cases and project potential

What Needs to Happen for this Industry to Thrive?

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One of the key discussion points in the roundtable concerned the supply of hydrogen. Despite the growing aggregate demand for hydrogen, there is no large scale local supply of low carbon H2. This will need to be addressed if the industry is to thrive, and questions about the optimal hydrogen production pathway in BC will have to be addressed (e.g. what is the optimal feedstock, how will it be produced, and deployed? How can we ensure supply is consistent and high quality?) The Hydrogen Study discussed above has an excellent analysis of this on page seven.


Other points of discussion were:


Workforce development and education. As the technology is further developed, the required skills may change as the industry becomes more focused on deployment at a large scale.


The need for investment and project capital is also necessary for the hydrogen/fuel cell industry to thrive, and participants discussed how hydrogen should be included in Canada’s national energy decarbonization strategy and federal funding programs.


Investment should take an ecosystem-wide approach, and include a focus on increasing the local supply of hydrogen, for example, on projects that might include infrastructure development, demonstration labs/facilities and direct commercialization projects (with local deployment to help de-risk capital and stimulate product development).


There was some concerns expressed regarding funding matching requirements causing the dilution of Canadian companies too early.

Next Steps - Market Development & Opportunities

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Hydrogen as an energy source is a growing industry in Canada and around the world.

It has an important role to play in the de-carbonization of multiple industries, and BC has the technological expertise and the natural resources to become a world leader in this industry. According to the Hydrogen Study, it has the potential to be a $15 billion/yr market in BC, and the roundtable participants characterized the hydrogen/fuel cell economy as on a ‘tipping point’ that is ready to grow, and grow quickly.

In addition to the important infrastructure investments discussed above, ideas and opportunities for developing the market were:


  • We have an opportunity to close the loop regarding waste to energy, and use landfills to their optimum capacity

  • Declining industries are looking to diversity (for example, Pulp & Paper mills are looking for uses for waste wood)

  • We should be telling the story of hydrogen as an alternative, low carbon fuel, and public education/awareness programs are important.

  • Policy is important to drive behaviour change on the end user side, and for the investment side, it has to be stable, provide long term regulatory certainty and should harmonize across North America

A Whole-Industry/Ecosystem Approach

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The group was enthusiastic about a Cluster-style, ecosystem approach, and discussed the benefits of having technology consortiums / industry collaboration to drive economies of scale and offer complete solution to the market using the local supply chain.

It was felt there is a real opportunity to come together and integrate component companies across the supply chain and develop export markets, and to focus on H2 utility scale infrastructure deployment.

Examples were discussed such as the European Hydrogen Valleys, and the fuel cell/hydrogen cluster, HZWo in Lower Saxony (Germany).

Special thanks to our partners Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and Zen Clean Energy Solutions for their help in putting this roundtable together - the work both organizations have been doing is instrumental to not only supporting BC’s world-class hydrogen and fuel cell sector, but also in laying the foundation for the future of this important industry.


About the Author

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Catriona Power

Director of Partnerships & Strategy,
Foresight Cleantech Accelerator
Twitter:@catrionapower
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/catrionapower/

Catriona is the Director of Partnerships and Strategy for Foresight Cleantech Accelerator, taking a lead on delivering high profile programs around cluster development, partnerships, collaboration and communications.

Catriona has worked at the intersection of business, sustainability and technology for the last nine years with organizations in Canada, UK, Europe and India, and has an MA Environment, Development and Policy from the University of Sussex, UK and a BSc International Development from University College Cork, Ireland.