“How do you go from nowhere to somewhere with hydrogen energy in a developed market like Canada where fossil fuels dominate?”
That was the question Dan Brock, Chair of H2GO Canada, asked himself before starting out the not-for-profit corporation focused on developing a market for hydrogen as an alternative fuel and energy source across Canada.
Brock, partner of Canadian law firm Fasken Martineau LLP, discovered his passion for hydrogen when his client Hyundai Canada initiated discussions on the deployment of hydrogen electric vehicles in Canada.
Confronted with the issue of a lacking hydrogen refuelling infrastructure across Canada, Brock, Hyundai, and five other automakers grouped together to address the matter.
“We created a coalition called the Canadian FCEV Coalition, essentially to lobby governments in Canada to try and confront the challenges associated with the lack of hydrogen refuelling stations,’ Brock tells H2 View in part one of an exclusive interview three-part series.
During its time of two years, the Canadian FCEV Coalition worked alongside the provincial and federal governments in Canada but reached a crossroads when a lack of broad knowledge and understanding in the market put a halt to the deployment of infrastructure.
“They had the money, they had the political will, but they had no plan and no understanding on how to meaningfully develop a hydrogen energy market in Canada.”
“The automakers themselves were very interested in having fuelling infrastructure built, but the market wasn’t prepared to build it themselves.”
Determined to not let a strong future for hydrogen in Canada slip away, Brock began looking at his goals for Canada and hydrogen, taking into consideration all he had learnt through his Canadian FCEV Coalition journey.
His determination and love for the clean fuel led to the formation of H2GO Canada. One of Brock’s first collaborators on the project, Bob Oliver, now CEO of H2GO Canada, shared Brock’s same passion for hydrogen and held great experience in the auto and energy sectors, forming a perfect partnership.
Before his involvement within the organisation Oliver worked on a project focused on evaluating fuel cell technology within the passenger railway sector in Canada. His past experience in fuel cell technology presented him with areas in the hydrogen market he wanted to confront through his participation in H2GO Canada.
“I have executive experience in the formal environmental movement within Canada, as well as in incubating hydrogen technology for applications in more established sectors,” Oliver tells H2 View.
To overcome the difficulties he had experienced in the past, Brock ensured H2GO Canada had a focused vision in order to achieve its desired goals.
H2GO Canada set out with an aim to mobilise public- and private-sector partnerships and accelerate the deployment of sustainable hydrogen systems, and to promote adoption of hydrogen technologies though education in Canada.
Much like H2 View, H2GO Canada focuses on three main topics, “The tricot for us are mobility, power, and heat. Hydrogen application in those three deployments is where our focus and interest is, but our main focus is really ‘how do you create a sustainable market?’,” said Brock.
“Our view was to really look at how Canada could meaningfully begin to deploy hydrogen energy in the marketplace in a sustainable way.”
“To create a market where people would both want to produce and sell hydrogen, where there would be the means of delivering it to the consumer, and the consumer would have applications for it. All of which would be done on a market basis with people making some money in the process.”
To showcase its commitment to a hydrogen economy, H2GO Canada published report back in May (2019), which outlined the vision for a sustainable hydrogen economy future in Canada.
The report identifies the barriers and opportunities for the deployment of hydrogen systems that can support deep, long-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
The study summarises findings from more than 35 private sector companies including Hydrogenics, Ballard Power Systems and Toyota Canada.
“What is in the report is exactly what the private sector stakeholders told us. When we asked them why they think the interest and deployment of hydrogen has seen a sudden rise, they said climate change,” said Oliver.
“There is a whole array of drivers, but climate change and the need to decarbonise our economy, our systems of energy production and distribution and use is forcing companies to take a serious look at what their decarbonisation pathways are.”
“Our study explains that hydrogen technology is not only mature, proven and capable but has a key role to play to help Canada meet its decarbonisation objectives and should be done with a net gain in employment,” said Brock.
Hope for the future
One of the main reasons Brock and Oliver decided to coin H2GO Canada as a not-for-profit was due to the critical role they hope to play in catalysing and co-ordinating conversations between governments, public bodies and the private sectors.
“That is the space we want to be in. It’s second nature in European countries that companies, businesses and governments stay co-ordinated on industrial policies and aim to move things ahead, but less so in North America and Canada,” said Brock.
“Positioning and stewarding these conversations between industry and governments in Canada is one key focus for us moving forward.”
As well as its aims to steward conversations between industry and government, both Brock and Oliver raised that much like H2 View, H2GO Canada are aiming to break down barriers in public consciousness to hydrogen as a viable, clean and available option.
Commenting on where he would like to see H2GO Canada in the next five years, Oliver said, “There is going to be a need for an authoritative and educational source of information, this is definitely going to be a major role H2GO Canada will be able to play over the next five years.”
“In five years, I would like to see north of 100 and 300 million dollars in total commitments from institutional investors in hydrogen infrastructure projects. H2GO is invested in delivering and facilitating that.”
In part two of this exclusive three-part series – H2GO Canada: Everyone is looking to Canada – Brock and Oliver discuss the current state of the Canadian hydrogen economy, where Canada has struggled in the past and hopes to grow.