B.C. launches hydrogen office to advance fuel cell adoption


A new government office dedicated to hydrogen projects and proposals could help British Columbia reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bolster the economy, the premier says.

John Horgan said the BC Hydrogen Office will allow government to create framework to make the province a leader in hydrogen use.

“We currently have a surplus of clean, green electricity, but as we electrify our economy further, we’re going to see a requirement for more clean energy,” he said Thursday.

Developing a hydrogen strategy could lead to a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Horgan said.

The previous Liberal government announced plans for a so-called hydrogen highway shortly before the 2010 Winter Olympics with plans for hydrogen fuel stations between Vancouver and Whistler, but the idea fizzled.

Horgan said the difference is that then it was a novelty, now it’s imperative.

Ravi Kahlon, the minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, said development in the hydrogen sector will bring more investment to the province.

“Hydrogen development helps B.C. meet our climate change commitments, it fosters innovation in B.C.’s economy, and positions B.C. as a leader in environmental and social responsibility,” he said.

More than 50 percent of Canada’s hydrogen and fuel-cell companies are in B.C. and the province accounts for about 60 percent of Canada’s research investment in hydrogen and fuel-cell development.

The province said in a news release there are currently 40 hydrogen projects proposed or under construction, representing $4.8 billion in investment.

A 2019 study done by the province showed by 2050, B.C. could expect hydrogen to provide $2.5 billion to its annual gross domestic product and create 3,750 jobs.

Because of B.C.’s location close to export markets, the government said the province could capture a “significant portion” of the global hydrogen market, which is estimated to be worth more than $305 billion by 2050.

The province’s hydrogen strategy, released last year, includes increasing the production of renewable hydrogen, establishing regional hydrogen hubs, and using medium- and heavy-duty fuel-cell vehicles.

“Hydrogen, as part of our CleanBC plan, is especially helpful where direct electrification is more difficult, such as in heavy-duty transportation or industrial heating,” said environment minister George Heyman.

The announcement comes as the province received a new report on ensuring economic stability in a post-pandemic world.

The report, titled Inclusive and Sustainable British Columbia, was produced by economics professor Mariana Mazzucato from the University College London for the provincial government.

Mazzucato, Horgan and Kahlon took part in a panel discussion at the Globe Forum 2022 climate conference in Vancouver, just before the premier announced plans for the hydrogen office.

Her report says B.C. can achieve higher productivity, investment and equitable growth, while also tackling social inequalities.

“But this requires a massive redirection of the economy and a new approach to economic policy,” the report says.