Quebec and the central provinces must prepare for a power shortage

Quebec and the other provinces in the center and east of the country are heading towards a significant lack of electricity available to meet the various needs generated by the energy transition.

This is the warning issued by researchers from the Trottier Energy Institute of Polytechnique Montréal in a report entitled “A strategic perspective for the electricity sector in central and eastern Canada”, published on Wednesday. .

According to this “white paper”, with the trajectory currently taken, most provinces will be unable to meet the electricity needs created by the increase in the number of electric vehicles and the decarbonization of heating of buildings, by 2030.

The researchers invite “all public electricity services to review their investment plans for the coming years without further delay”.

Quebec in a better position

At a press conference on Wednesday, the Premier of Quebec hinted that the province could actually run out of electricity.

“We are open to exports of green hydrogen, if the price is good and also according to the capacities we have in electricity. Because currently, we predict that in the next few years, we will run out of electricity, so we have to be careful, “said Francois Legault.

However, Quebec is better positioned than the other provinces, quite simply because it is the largest hydroelectricity producer in the country.

But this renewable energy source is also attracting new customers who will contribute to increasing demand in the coming years.

“Hydro-Québec sees a lot of industries that want to set up in Quebec to take advantage of electricity and these are big industries that require a lot of energy,” said Normand Mousseau, scientific director of the Trottier Institute and co-author of the report.

These new industries, such as data centers, cryptocurrency mining centers or agricultural greenhouses, will contribute to increasing demand, but this is also the case for industries already present in the territory and which will have to decarbonize in the coming years. years, therefore leaving fossil fuels for renewable energies.

Decarbonization issues in Quebec are also related to transportation, since the province aims to have a fleet of 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2030 and stop selling gasoline vehicles from 2035.

“Hydro-Québec is largely capable of meeting the demand that is coming for electric vehicles, institutional commercial buildings and manufacturers,” indicated Normand Mousseau, specifying, however, that electricity export contracts in the United States United “risk reducing the distributor’s room for maneuver” and “we risk ending up with a shortfall by 2030”.

Focus on wind power

Hydro-Quebec will therefore have to find new sources of electricity and the distributor cannot rely on natural gas because of the province’s climate commitments, according to the researcher.

The answer, according to Normand Mousseau, does not lie in the construction of new dams either.

“The reservoirs give the network immense flexibility, but today we no longer have the capacity to flood territories as we did in the past. From an environmental point of view and from a point of view of social acceptability, it does not pass, “said the scientific director of the Trottier Institute.

The solution therefore lies in the construction of new wind farms, according to him.

“The construction of wind turbines, piloted by Hydro-Quebec to reduce costs, we can do that at very competitive rates” and “if we find ourselves in a situation where we have too much electricity in Quebec, we can sell it no problem because the other provinces are in an even worse situation than ours”.

The authorities are not ready

The report notes that across the country, “there is a major disconnect between current planning for electric utilities and the efforts that are needed to meet the climate goals set by provincial and federal governments.”

The authorities underestimate “the scale of the transformation required to achieve the climate objectives”, specified Mr. Mousseau.

In addition, researchers from the Institut de l’énergie Trottier at Polytechnique Montréal are offering six workshops focusing on different themes: regulation, pricing, demand management, data, implementation support and resilience. .

Regarding resilience, the report points out that technological innovations such as smart meters make networks much more flexible, but “with this flexibility comes however an increased risk of cyberattacks”.

Also, extreme weather phenomena caused by climate change increase the risk of physical damage to infrastructure.

“The resilience of electricity networks therefore remains essential, but climate change also affects demand, in particular by increasing the needs for space cooling or heating during extreme summer or winter conditions,” the report reads.

Better use of data

Researchers at the Trottier Institute believe that governments and retailers should facilitate access to “data on current systems” to build pathways to carbon neutrality.

Better data collection and sharing could also improve energy productivity, planning, generation, storage, transmission and distribution of electricity.

Betting on energy efficiency, with modulated tariffs that are less expensive outside peak hours and regulation during the winter peak period, is also part of the solutions that will help achieve climate targets.

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