Energy remains one of the biggest challenges for the 21st century. It lies at the nexus of water, health, food, and other issues. Some of the key challenges include resource sustainability, particularly for oil and gas, environmental damage and climate change, reduced affluence and urgency. To quote Richard Smalley (1996 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry) “Energy is the single most important challenge facing humanity today. Somehow we must find energy prosperity for the 21st century….” These global challenges are also opportunities for UBC and the Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC).
Over the last four years faculty growth at CERC has increased from 20 to over 65 faculty members, with additional associate members external to the university. Faculty involvement is very interdisciplinary, primarily involving different Applied Science departments but also Science and Forestry, and others. The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering is one of the largest members of CERC, an indication of the importance of this discipline in clean energy. CERC members are doing research in areas such as energy efficiency, energy generation, energy storage and energy management. Over the last couple of years the University has established a “Living Lab” program to implement newer energy technologies at scale that not only help to meet operational requirements but also to provide opportunities for education and faculty research. CERC is an important part of this new initiative and will play an increasing role going forward.
In 2009 CERC launched a Masters of Engineering in Clean Energy program with a yearly enrollment of about 25 students. This program is in its third year and has been hugely successful with over 80% of the graduates being employed in the energy sector. BC Hydro PowerSmart® has been an important sponsor and an integral part of the program. Over the last two years there has also been significant outreach and collaborative activities with the provincial government and the industrial energy sector. This has included a CERC summit event in 2011 (Collaborating for Sustainable Clean Energy) with over 230 participants, and targeted workshops in areas such as CO2 mitigation , bio-energy, the oil sands, and hydrogen and fuel cells. This has been an important activity in identifying future funding and collaborative opportunities with large energy cluster areas. On the home front CERC continues to have an active seminar program, newsletters, and an annual internal open house.
In the Fall of 2010 CERC established a very active and committed advisory board consisting of university and industry leaders (Chair: Eamonn Percy, Former President and COO of Powertech). This board is integral to CERC moving forward, identifying opportunities in the energy sector, and dealing with such issues as operational sustainability for CERC. The future looks very bright for CERC, and Applied Science Departments such as Chemical and Biological Engineering will play a pivotal role.
Reprinted with permission from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, The Exchanger, Spring 2012