A paradigm shift is on the horizon

Hydro-Québec indicated last April that it was assessing the hydroelectric potential of the Petit Mécatina River, on its north shore, but no new power plant project has been confirmed yet. (photo: 123RF)

Energy efficiency. Quebec has “crucial choices to be made” regarding energy and Quebecers should expect a “paradigm shift” with a bill introduced in the fall to review the framework for the energy sector. Boycott,” says Minister for the Economy and Energy Pierre Fitzgibbon. Business He evaluates the case.

“We are dealing with an important reform, which is the energy reform of Quebec,” Minister Fitzgibbon launched May 30 during an event on the future of energy in Quebec organized by Business. According to him, this upcoming update of the legal and regulatory framework for the energy sector will be man From his second term in the government of François Legault.

As he has been echoing for some time in various forums, he announced his ambition to make Quebec “the first carbon-neutral country in North America” ​​by 2050. To achieve this goal in the context of very strong electricity demand, he said, the minister prioritizes three main projects: energy efficiency , increasing electricity production from existing facilities, developing new sources of renewable energy – maybe wind power, maybe hydroelectric dams and “maybe a little solar”.

We must “show intelligence and sobriety of energy,” Pierre Fitzgibbon said during his speech, acknowledging that Quebecers are among the highest per capita energy consumers in the world. “But if we say so, it is not because we are asking Quebecers to make sacrifices, quite the opposite,” he added, saying he would prefer the carrot (financial incentives) to the stick (financial penalties or regulatory restrictions) to adjust consumption habits.

He maintains that the efforts made by residents to reduce their consumption of electricity will not be used to enrich multinational corporations seeking to settle in the province, fond of clean and affordable hydropower generation. Quebec will not become a “dollarama of electricity,” he insisted, using the expression of former Hydro-Quebec CEO Sophie Brochu. “I categorically reject this designation,” he continued. Stop demonizing industries. »

I predicted the plan

Attentive during Minister Fitzgibbon’s speech, Quebec Solidere and his party’s spokesperson for economy and energy, Haroun Bouazi, are eager to see the government’s detailed plan, particularly with regard to the possibility of building new hydroelectric dams. Hydro-Québec indicated last April that it was assessing the hydroelectric potential of the Petit Mécatina River, on its north shore, but no new power plant project has been confirmed yet. The representative-elect argued: “It is difficult to follow a government that does not offer us the equations upon which to base itself for the issuance of assurances.”

“The idea of ​​thinking about dams is to put the cart before the horse,” said Alain Dubuque, strategic advisor to the Quebec Institute. Dams will be built if necessary. But for that, you must first have a very clear and agreed upon idea of ​​what the energy demand that will be met will be. »

The clean energies supervision and development bill is expected to be introduced in the fall of 2023. Consultations began in May and will continue through Aug. 1.

Repair is required

Reforming Quebec’s energy sector appears imperative when you read the State of Quebec Energy 2023, the latest edition of a report prepared each year by HEC Montreal’s head of energy sector management. In particular, we note that Canada (and Quebec, which has a similar performance) is “capacity expensive” among a group of similar countries, such as the United Kingdom, Japan, or the United States. This means that Quebec is one of the places in the world where the least wealth is created per unit of energy consumed.

This poor performance is largely due to our excessive energy consumption, itself linked to very low electricity rates, explains Professor and co-author of the study, Pierre-Olivier Pinault. Researchers have conducted studies to determine the average energy consumption on Earth that would be compatible with achieving the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. It is about 60 GJ per person per year, he explained during the event organized by Les Affaires, while in Quebec, we consume 180 GJ per year. So we have to divide our energy consumption by three. »

In his view, this reduction in consumption requires, in particular, smaller, better-insulated homes (“We have an unparalleled number of empty rooms in the history of Quebec,” he said during his presentation) and a less energy-intensive transportation sector (more boats and trains, fewer less than planes and cars on the roads).

“The good news is we can do it, but we have to change our habits,” he said. According to him, it is possible to maintain a high standard of living, by adopting a low-carbon lifestyle. “There are countries that, over the course of 30 years, have worked to reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing their GDP and demographics. This is the case in Germany and Denmark,” he said in an interview after leaving the stage.

As for the comprehensive reform of the energy sector promised by Pierre Fitzgibbon, Professor Pinault has “moderate optimism”. He noted, “This is the first time that I see a minister of energy knowledgeable about energy issues.” When it comes to word of mouth, it goes much further than its predecessors. »

However, he warned that the upcoming reform should not be limited to creating new wind farms to supply energy-intensive industries. If it comes down to it, this policy will be a failure. It may be an industrial success, but it will be an energy and environmental failure. »

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