Quebec short of electricity? C’est impossible!

According to a new study, the province’s historical surplus of hydro power may be coming to an end, with the possibility of shortages occurring as early as 2027. Photo credit: Facebook/Hydro-Quebec


Quebec has long been known as the electricity powerhouse in Canada, generating the most electricity of any province with over 90 per cent of that power coming from hydroelectricity. The giant James Bay Project itself generates about half of the electricity consumed in Quebec. Electricity costs in the province are considerably less than in other Canadian provinces and US states, giving that province an enviable competitive advantage. The abundance of hydroelectric power produced in the province is such that Quebec exports significant amounts of electricity to other Canadian provinces and US states. 

Considering Quebec’s prodigious reputation for hydroelectric power, it was surprising to read a recent study by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) entitled Quebec’s Uncertain Energy Future. The full report can be found here. The report’s main finding was that Quebec’s historical surplus of hydro power was coming to an end, with the possibility of shortages occurring as early as 2027. The study also concludes that a key part of the problem is that the Quebec government’s solutions are either too little or too late. 

Part of the cause of the projected shortages is the government push to “electrification”, or converting industry and other economic sectors from fossil-fuel generated energy to hydroelectricity. This will naturally increase electricity demand from households and businesses and will end the electricity surpluses the province has enjoyed for decades.

As has been the case in many Canadian provinces as well as other countries, expectations that wind and solar power were going to be adequate replacements for hydro and fossil fuels have proven to be wildly optimistic, as jurisdictions that have relied on these renewable energy sources have found themselves with an energy system that is unreliable and expensive. 

A report by Hydro-Quebec assessing the province’s future electricity requirements comments that to meet future demand, there will be a need to maintain or even increase the use of natural gas to generate electricity. This notion is of course anathema to environmental advocates that continue to pretend that phasing out fossil fuels within the next few decades will be painless and achievable without encountering blackouts, brownouts and sharply increased energy prices, despite all facts to the contrary. 

Even though Quebec has been attempting to phase out fossil fuels in recent years, use of natural gas and refined petroleum products still accounts for almost half of total energy consumption. 

For most of Canada’s history, provinces have based their energy policy on objective analyses of how much energy would be needed in future years and built capacity to meet those needs. As most energy projects require a good deal of lead time to becoming productive, those forecasts were very important to get right, and professional experts in the various energy utilities and regulators did a decent job of matching supply with demand. 

In the last 10-15 years, however, as the climate alarmists became more influential, it has become all too common for provincial governments to determine their energy policies on the basis of political trends and net zero ideology including the concept of electrification instead of prioritizing an affordable, reliable supply of energy based on factual data. 

One group that will be sorely disappointed by the MEI’s report will be the environmental organizations in Ontario. Those groups have recently been promoting the narrative that one of the ways that Ontario can accomplish its net zero goals will be to purchase more emissions-free hydroelectric power from Quebec. Whoops! Doesn’t look like that will be happening anytime soon. 

Governments in Canada and elsewhere are continuing to pursue their unrealistic environmental policies, driving up costs for households and businesses, making our economies less competitive, lowering our standard of living and making our vital energy infrastructure less reliable. As we get more experience with the serious downsides of these policies, more and more studies such as the MEI analysis are coming out to call into question why we are promoting this approach so strenuously. 

As governments have not yet been dissuaded from their net zero and electrification goals, it seems that many more studies and more pain will be needed until sanity and sensible energy policy can yet again prevail. 

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