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  • David Boudeweel-Lefebvre

Hydro-Québec tables an overly ambitious action plan?

Hydro-Québec's recent unveiling of its ambitious 2035 Action Plan, spearheaded by new president, Michael Sabia, promises an extensive transformation toward decarbonization and enhanced prosperity for the province. As Québec faces escalating energy challenges, Sabia's plan seeks to address these issues while navigating complexities, such as energy shortages, potential new production methods, and balancing affordable energy delivery to residential and industrial customers, compounded by contracted sales of electricity to the United States.


Outlined in the plan is a colossal investment exceeding $100 billion, a considerable leap aimed at doubling generating capacity to 200 terawatt-hours, alongside substantial enhancements to the transmission network. This extraordinary financial commitment, tripling annual investments to between $12 and $16 billion, is a bold move echoing the scale of the construction of the James Bay Project.


The blueprint involves constructing new hydroelectric plants, a 1,000 MW pumped storage facility, renovating existing dams, and significantly expanding wind power capacity, nearly tripling current production levels. Integrating solar power, battery storage, and emerging technologies into the grid is also on the agenda, projecting an additional 500 to 1,000 MW of power generation. However, the plan notably excludes nuclear power as is natural gas production in the province, which could be self-sustainable for several decades.


Amidst these ambitious aims, energy efficiency takes precedence, targeting a substantial 1800 MW in savings, inclusive of initiatives aimed at owners of larger homes. Despite these comprehensive initiatives, realities suggest that achieving the forecasted energy consumption reductions might fall short of the intended targets. Transitioning towards a renewable energy-dominant landscape, as envisioned, may indeed demand more time than initially anticipated due to logistical, technical, and regulatory challenges. It would also be better served by using local natural gas production in a transition truly beneficial to the provincial economy.


Forecasts predicting the integration of a substantial proportion of renewable energy sources will likely encounter delays and hurdles. While the plan aligns with Québec's aspiration for carbon neutrality by 2050, executing such an extensive overhaul in energy infrastructure necessitates meticulous planning, regulatory approvals, and community support, factors that will most probably extend the timeline.


Moreover, to execute this ambitious roadmap, Hydro-Québec estimates a workforce requirement of 35,000 construction workers by 2035. However, uncertainties persist regarding the implementation timeline, considering the intricate nature of large-scale infrastructural projects and the labor market's capacity to meet such demands.


Despite these challenges and unknowns, the plan demonstrates a commitment to limiting rate increases for the residential sector to 3%, aiming to balance sustainable energy goals with affordability. This is another matter where we can expect the plan to be adjusted over the next few years. While Michael Sabia's vision is comprehensive and ambitious, the journey toward achieving these goals might encounter unforeseen hurdles, necessitating a flexible approach to implementation and adaptation to evolving circumstances.


So while the plan outlines an optimistic trajectory, its realization hinges on navigating various complexities and embracing adaptive strategies along the way, that is if Hydro-Quebec is nimble and prepared for the challenge.

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