Electrical power



Electrical power at UBC

Electricity at UBC Vancouver is provided primarily by BC Hydro via two transmission lines through Pacific Spirit Park. The BC Hydro lines connect to two UBC-owned sub-stations, North (UNY) and South (UNS). The North campus sub-station distributes power to all the academic and student housing facilities. The South Campus sub-station provides electricity solely to TRIUMF, one of the world’s leading subatomic physics laboratories. BC Hydro provides power to all the market housing on campus.

UBC’s Electricity service areas

Alternate electrical power

A power outage is a short or long-term loss of electric power to an area. Emergency generators are used for life-safety building system equipment that are essential for safety to human life. Generators are also used for non-life-safety functions, such as for research equipment.

Some buildings have emergency generators to create electrical power after the power outage occurs. However, any research equipment connected to a generator will still see a power loss, although for only a few seconds, unless they are also connected to an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS).

During a power outage, your building may have one or more of the following alternate electrical power sources available.

  • Emergency power: For egress lighting systems, exits, fire alarm systems, etc.
  • Standby power (Legally required): Lighting for elevators, smoke control detectors, etc.
  • Standby power (Non-emergency or optional): Pumps, data, security, freezers, etc.


Electrical power shutdowns and outages

UBC Facilities and Safety & Risk Services recognize the value of your work and the impact a disruption in power can have on your research. By working and planning together, we can greatly reduce risk to infrastructure, equipment, and research by addressing campus growth needs and ensure long-term reliability of electrical power supply.

While BC Hydro’s electrical service to the UBC campus is reliable, there will be times when power can fluctuate or fail due to weather events or upstream equipment failures. Our teams can assist during planned shutdowns and unexpected power outages, but planning ahead will help minimize risk to your equipment and research in the long term. During a power outage, our resources are limited and our teams may not be able to respond or help due to demand.

Continuity Planning

Safety & Risk Services advises departments to annually review departmental continuity plans for planned shut downs or unexpected power outages. The objective of continuity planning is to ensure the continuation of critical university services including teaching and research for an extended duration of time following an initial emergency or threat. The duration of time may range from a few hours to many days or even months.

Continuity Plans are tools where a unit or department records what its impacts will be from a given interruption (such as power outage) and how it will work around to overcome these impacts for a given period of time. It is also a tool for recording resources, personnel or other important information that will assist in guiding itself through the interruption. Recording this information and then making it available to all necessary personnel allows for deliberate and approved actions to be made when adverse circumstances arise.

Protect your equipment

Protect your equipment investments by implementing an electrical standby strategy that meets your research need. Please consider the following when planning for electrical power outages:

  • Review critical power needs: Take steps to lead your team through a review of critical power needs for your area.
  • Standby power: Work with your Building Administrator to determine if your area is supported by standby generator power or Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Contact your Facilities Manager if further support is required.
  • Near-term: If your equipment is not supported by standby power and have a critical need, create a Continuity Plan using the template provided by Safety & Risk Services. Once you have completed your Continuity Plan, please contact Safety & Risk Services if you need further support. Learn more about Continuity Planning.
  • Long-term: Contact your Facilities Manager to learn about technical requirements and develop long-term plans for protecting your equipment and research.
  • Freezers: Do you have dry ice supply readily available to place in freezers during an outage to extend freeze time? You may want to create a consolidation plan to move frozen items to other freezers to extend freeze time.


Learn more about purchasing research equipment that requires power and/or infrastructure modifications.


Emergency generators & Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS):

Emergency generators

Emergency generators are fuel-driven units that create electrical power for longer periods of time. They are capable of running indefinitely as long as they have a reliable fuel supply but they do not provide uninterrupted power. They are typically located outside the building and are connected to dedicated circuits in your building’s electrical wiring.

If you have critical research equipment that is not on an emergency generator, please contact your Building Administrator and include relevant information such as your building, lab number and electrical panel name/number if known (typically labeled on lab electrical outlets). Your building administrator will work with our Facilities Managers to discuss possible solutions for your faculty/department.

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) devices combine a high-quality surge protector with a battery that will keep electronics running through a surge or blackout (for a short time – usually less than an hour) without disruption or they will bridge the time until a generator can start delivering stable power. A UPS can be helpful in the case of a short outage or surge, or if someone is close by to safely shut down equipment. They are typically installed close to the device(s) they service. Funding for UPS devices needs to be planned by your faculty. Any required maintenance or testing would also be the faculty’s responsibility. The devices can be ordered through UBC Finance.

Ordering a new emergency generator or adding capacity to an existing generator

There are many factors when installing a new emergency generator or adding additional capacity to an existing generator. Some buildings may not have capacity due to the age of the building or infrastructure. To determine if your equipment is currently on standby power, check to see if it is plugged into an electrical outlet that is colored differently than standard outlets (usually red).

For questions and support, our Facilities Managers can help connect you to the appropriate technical specialist to advise you with procuring the correct systems and capacity on a customer funded basis.


Learn more about purchasing research equipment that requires power and/or infrastructure modifications.