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  • David Boudeweel-Lefebvre

Energy: Québec misses out on real solutions

Last week, Pierre Fitzgibbon, Québec's Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy, tabled an important bill reforming Québec's energy sector. This long-awaited piece of legislation will modify the rights and obligations of the electricity production and distribution monopoly, adjust energy market regulation mechanisms, and propose a roadmap to a new energy policy.

This move comes at a time when the Québec government is finally acknowledging that the Province is facing an energy shortage, and that the situation is set to worsen over the next few years. This has an impact on sharply rising electricity costs, and on economic development. Unfortunately, Québec has to say no to many projects because of the energy shortage.

The Minister is proposing new energy production, whether from hydro dams or wind power. He is also proposing to push ahead with energy efficiency efforts, a solution that has so far failed to produce the desired outcomes.

While the bill has some positive aspects, such as the desire to produce more energy and add transparency to Hydro-Québec's mechanisms, it fails to address a  significant question: how can we ensure that Québec no longer has to say no to dozens of industrial and commercial projects because it's short on energy capacity, without astronomically raising the cost of electricity?

The solutions are complex, but essentially involve the inclusion of all energy sources and their production. Hydroelectricity, wind and solar power can be part of the solution, but Québec can no longer afford to ignore its abundant natural gas reserves or its nuclear energy potential if it wants to meet its much-needed energy capacity.

The alternative is simply to maintain the current economic levels, or worse, experience a depressing decline. All the while, the world's great powers - the USA, India, China and the United Kingdom - are scrambling to maximize their energy security by diversifying their production portfolios. Many other nations, such as Brazil, Turkey, Poland and Guyana, are improving their citizens' standard of living by producing more of their oil, gas and nuclear resources.

The world's other nations are evolving, and competition is increasingly fierce. Europe's slow growth is rooted in decades of poor energy rationalization. The end of nuclear power in Germany has led to a catastrophe, and dependence on Russian gas is weakening the entire continent. Most countries around the globe only wish they had Québec's opportunities to diversify their  energy production sources.

The reality of energy needs is catching up with a Province that thought it was safe behind its hydroelectric giant. The decisions of the next few years will be decisive.




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