(Montreal) At a time when electricity production is not sufficient to meet all the new demands of industrial projects, the Legault government should allow private sector energy producers to sell directly to companies, pleads the Institute economy of Montreal (IEDM).
Otherwise, Quebec would find itself putting “a brake” on its economic development, fears the think tank associated with the economic right. “Due to the absence of an alternative to Hydro-Québec, the projects of entrepreneurs who will be refused will have to go elsewhere for them to be carried out, deplores its analyst in public policy, Gabriel Giguère, in an interview. To allow private producers to sell electricity would certainly be a better thing. »
The MEI is making this intervention while the Ministry of Energy is conducting consultations on the supervision and development of clean energies. The goal is to table a bill this fall.
Private companies are present in the production of electricity in Quebec, in particular for wind power, solar power and hydroelectric dams of less than 50 MW. However, they act as suppliers of Hydro-Québec, which has a monopoly on the sale and distribution of electricity.
A company can, itself, produce electricity for its own project, as is the case with Rio Tinto, but it cannot enter into an agreement with an independent producer.
Quebec hydroelectricity is arousing unprecedented enthusiasm, while many companies want to reduce the carbon footprint of their projects. However, the capacity of Hydro-Québec, which envisages the end of the surpluses for 2027, will not be sufficient to respond favorably to all requests.
Allowing independent producers to sell their electricity directly to industrial customers would allow more projects to take place, according to Mr. Giguère. “It is absolutely necessary that there be alternatives for economic development in Quebec,” argues Mr. Giguère.
Quebec companies have already adopted this model in the United States, underlines the analyst. He gives the example of the Quebec producer Innergex, which supplies Amazon in Ohio.
In Quebec, the model could also be part of a reconciliation effort with Indigenous communities who could develop their projects.
The MEI also suggests raising the cap of 50 MW of capacity for private sector hydroelectric dams.
Below this threshold, it becomes difficult to develop a dam project in the private sector, explained the president and CEO of the energy producer Innergex, Michel Letellier, in May. “There are not many [sites where this would be possible]. Virgin sites, there is still a level of reluctance. We have people who go kayaking, canoeing. With ecotourism, this is an issue. I’m not saying that it won’t happen, but inevitably, there is an integration challenge. »
Minister Fitzgibbon had already opened the door in May to the possibility of increasing this ceiling, but he had been skeptical of the idea of entrusting major works to the private sector. “The expertise of dams is Hydro-Québec. This is the value we have in Quebec. I wouldn’t see why we would open this. There are private dams that exist, which we can continue to supply or increase their capacity. »
Mr. Giguère believes that there are still enough rivers left to develop private dams if the 50 MW cap is raised.
“There is no possibility of a Robert-Bourassa dam over 5000 MW, but above 50 MW, there are several possibilities, judges the analyst. These are not necessarily large-scale projects. Regulatory flexibility is needed, because Hydro-Québec will not be able to develop all of the electrical potential overnight. »