The drought that is burning the forests of the north has not emptied the reservoirs of Hydro-Québec, but it complicates the activities of its employees on site, some of whom had to be evacuated.

This is a special year, according to the spokesperson for the state-owned company, Francis Labbé. “The winter was less snowy in the north, and the snow cover melted faster, which explains the drought and the fires,” he says.

The level of the large Hydro-Quebec reservoirs, which is always at its lowest at the end of winter, is not a concern, according to him.

Hydro-Québec manages 27 reservoirs with a storage capacity equivalent to 173 terawatt hours of electricity, the equivalent of Québec’s electricity needs for one year. The largest of these reservoirs are located in northern Quebec, where forests have been burning for a month.

The water level in the reservoirs is information that Hydro-Québec releases only twice a year, “for commercial reasons,” said its spokesperson.

The last disclosure dates back to January 1, 2023 and indicates that the accumulated water stock was higher than the previous year. Since 2014, the trend in water levels has been on the rise.

“In the longer term, forecasts related to climate change suggest an increase in precipitation between 5 and 10% in Nord-du-Québec, precisely where we have our large reservoirs,” said the spokesperson.

The fire nevertheless disrupted the Hydro-Québec network. The very dense smoke laden with fine particles has disrupted transmission lines and caused three outages since June 1, says Francis Labbé.

Two hundred workers from power plants near the main fires were still being evacuated on Friday in case the smoke became intolerable and the only access road was inaccessible.

Forest fires are frequent in northern Quebec at this time of year and Hydro-Quebec has an agreement with SOPFEU, which generally takes care of the protection of its facilities. This year, due to the number and scale of the fires, the state-owned company went into the fight itself.

“We took initiatives ourselves, because SOPFEU is in the business,” says Francis Labbé. We mainly cleared trees around the stations to remove fuel from the fire. »