UBC’s Energy & Water Story

Like any growing city, UBC’s Vancouver campus faces an ever-increasing demand for the provision of basic services like electricity, heat, water, and sewers. We’ve been managing the costs of these services by directly controlling the maintenance, operation, and capital upgrades of the associated infrastructure on campus.

UBC is projected to spend nearly $36 million for these services in the 2015 fiscal year (ends March 31, 2015). Further campus growth means increased energy consumption. When combined with energy price increases, UBC’s utility expenses are projected to be in excess of $50 million by 2020.

This significant operational risk also provides an enormous opportunity—an opportunity for us to conserve, and to be creative about how energy and water is produced, distributed, and consumed on campus.

Addressing Our Energy and Water Future

UBC’s energy and water challenges are a microcosm of much larger global issues. Climate change from increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and aging infrastructure deficits are problems governments and institutions around the world are grappling with. What we’re asking ourselves is: can universities, and UBC, contribute positive solutions to these worldwide challenges? Can our campus separate GHG emissions from energy consumption?

Questions like these prompted UBC’s executive leadership to challenge the UBC community in 2010 by announcing three stretch targets to reduce campus GHG emissions. We met our previous target of reducing academic GHG emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2007, in line with Canada’s original Kyoto Protocol commitment. UBC now aspires to further reduce campus GHG emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2015, 67 per cent by 2020, and 100 per cent by 2050.


By the end of the 2015 calendar year, we reduced our campus GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2007 levels. With the completion of the Bioenergy Research Demonstration Facility (BRDF), building re-commissioning projects and the Academic District Energy System project (ADES), we expect to exceed our 33 per cent GHG reduction target in 2016. These major initiatives not only decrease our GHGs, but also reduce our operational expenses considerably, and create a funding stream to help pay for the internal loans used to finance these projects.

About UBC Energy and Water Services

It’s within this context that UBC created the new Energy and Water Services (EWS) unit in the spring of 2014, to establish a centre of energy and utility system expertise—for both operations and infrastructure—for the Vancouver campus. The unit’s activities are divided into two groups: Energy Planning and Innovation (EPI), and Generation and Distribution. The EWS team consists of existing staff members from UBC’s Building Operations and Campus & Community Planning departments.


Reduce UBC’s consumption of energy and water, and eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through mindful stewardship of our campus energy and water resources.


Our mission is to generate, distribute and conserve UBC’s energy and water resources in an open and transparent manner that maintains our customers’ environmental comfort, ensures system reliability, minimizes life cycle cost, reduces GHG emissions, and seeks out innovative solutions that inspire.


Values:  Inspire, Conserve, Innovate

  • safety and emergency preparedness
  • conservation and efficiency
  • system reliability and adaptability
  • partnerships and collaboration
  • leadership and innovation
  • Integrity and fiscal responsibility


Learn more about our utility infrastructure, energy production, energy planning and innovation efforts, leadership, risk mitigation approach and key statistics and metrics.