• 2009
    Project Start
  • 2012
    NUS In Service
  • 2020
    Low-Carbon Energy Source
  • 2025
    Construction Completion

The Partnership

UniverCity is a sustainable master-planned community adjacent to Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus. Seeking an energy solution aligned with their ethos, UniverCity needed a cost-effective, environmentally responsible alternative to provide heat and hot water to the community’s new housing projects.

SFU, SFU Community Trust, and Corix partnered to execute the ambitious project.

The Opportunity

Corix’s 2012 development of the Neighbourhood Utility Service (NUS) to serve the UniverCity community served as a proof of concept for sustainable success. Then, in 2016, Corix and SFU began exploring the opportunity to build a larger energy system that would meet the thermal energy needs of the expanding UniverCity community alongside SFU’s academic campus. As a result of the collaboration, the Burnaby Mountain District Energy Utility (BMDEU) project commenced, and the $33-million biomass-based Renewable Energy Centre was constructed.
While the energy requirements for the NUS were initially provided by temporary natural gas-fired boilers, the larger scale of the BMDEU meant the transition to a permanent, low-carbon energy source was now economically viable.

Following the assessment of various alternative energy sources, biomass was identified and ultimately selected for the BMDEU to meet the capacity and higher temperature requirements of SFU’s Campus district energy system, ensuring compatibility and a seamless transition to low-carbon energy.

The Solution

Completed in 2020, the Renewable Energy Centre now provides low-carbon heat and hot water to most of SFU’s Burnaby campus and approximately half of the UniverCity community – nearly 10,000 residents and an additional 30,000 SFU students, staff and faculty.

As a result, the BMDEU has drastically decreased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. SFU has exceeded its carbon reduction targets, slashing GHGs by over 50% from 2007 levels in 2021 and saving 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

The Energy System

The Renewable Energy Centre harnesses locally sourced wood waste, using wood chips, shavings, and urban and clean construction wood waste diverted from Metro Vancouver landfills.

The 13.5 MWt biomass boiler provides an estimated 85% of annual energy demand for the system with 6 MWt natural gas boilers providing peaking and back-up for UniverCity customers. The system includes additional efficiency measures, such as a flue gas heat recovery system, preheating of combustion air, and heat recovery from a biomass boiler cooling water system. A two-stage emissions control system and a continuous emissions monitoring system ensure local air emissions meet or exceed Metro Vancouver’s stringent air emission requirements.