Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Can Hydro provide the electricity needed? Elected officials from Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville are worried after communications with the state company.

Hydro-Qu&eac;bec blows hot and cold on a housing megaproject

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The residential megaproject will be located next to Promenades Saint-Bruno.

  • Olivier Bourque (View profile)Olivier Bourque

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In a few years, the landscape will radically change around Promenades Saint-Bruno, on the South Shore, in the Montreal region. An enormous eco-district, one of the largest in Quebec with 3,800 housing units, will rise from the ground. If the project arouses excitement, it is above all the confusion which currently reigns because doubts remain about the energy supply by Hydro-Québec.

When Radio-Canada visited, we could see the traces of trucks on the muddy ground adjacent to the shopping center. Analyzes have already been carried out in recent weeks. In the distance, we imagine the district, triangular in shape, where the two housing projects led by Cogir and the Beauregard Group will be located.

It's a beautiful neighborhood, a beautiful project. We have protected wetlands, there is affordable housing, social housing, says Vincent Fortier, councilor in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville.

However, the young elected official is worried. In the current form of the project, the complex will be partly supplied by natural gas. Mr. Fortier would like the neighborhood to be supplied with 100% renewable energy, including electricity.

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Saint-Bruno municipal councilor Vincent Fortier is against the supply of natural gas in the future eco-district.

We're talking about an eco-neighborhood, we can't power it with fossil gas for a hundred years. It just doesn't make sense, he says, discouraged.

An eco-district is an urban area developed and managed according to sustainable development objectives and practices which call for the commitment of all of its inhabitants.

(Source: Office québécois de la langue française)

The question of energy supply has also become a very thorny subject in Saint-Bruno. During municipal council meetings, citizens denounced the expected presence of natural gas in the project.

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Some photos of the project provided by the developer.

Hydro-Québec plays a leading role in the matter. After the adoption of a City resolution aimed at banning natural gas from new constructions, the state company sent a letter to the municipality.

In this missive, Hydro-Québec warns the City that banning natural gas would be a bad idea, because energy surpluses have shrunk dramatically in recent years.

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You will understand that since during peak periods the electricity network is already saturated, a municipality which now requires all-electric power supply for development projects on its territory would cause significant pressure on the available network, which could compromise reliability as well. that the very availability of electricity required during peak periods, writes Marie-Ève ​​Sylvestre, head of community relations, in a letter obtained by Radio-Canada.

The state-owned company also indicates that it is therefore impossible to give unreserved assurance that it will be able to supply this renewable energy reliably, constantly and sufficiently for all new development projects planned on the horizon. 30 years old.

This letter had the effect of a knockdown on the municipality. The mayor of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Ludovic Grisé Farand, still does not know whether Hydro would be able to ensure 100% electric supply to the project if natural gas was abandoned.

For us, this is not reassuring. We are a city, we try to make informed decisions for our citizens […] We are at an impasse. This is not reassuring for us.

A quote from Ludovic Grisé Farand, mayor of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville

In an interview, he admits that he no longer knows which way to dance. On the one hand, he wants the eco-district to move forward on time and for the draft resolution to abandon gas to be adopted, but he wants assurances from Hydro-Québec.

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The mayor of Saint-Bruno, Ludovic Grisé Farand

If Hydro tells us that it can supply us with 100% electricity without delay, it's sure to be a game changer for the project. The regulation would pass. All new construction should be 100% renewable energy, he explains.

The project will require 23 megawatts (MW) of energy. In comparison, the Bell Center needs 5 MW. If its supply were to be revised with more electricity, the complex would have to obtain authorization from the Minister of Energy and the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, under Law 2 on electricity distribution, the ministry confirmed at Radio-Canada.

However, the analysis of the file would be based on a process distinct and specific to that of industrial projects. It's not simple, admits Mayor Grisé Farand.

When submitting a brief, the developer Cogir also questioned supply by Hydro-Québec. According to Saint-Bruno regulations, 50% of the parking spaces in a new project should be ready to possibly receive a charging station.

The company claims that it is impossible to comply with the regulations due to Hydro-Québec's inability to provide the energy necessary to power the terminals.

Questioned by Radio-Canada, Hydro-Québec affirms that the megaproject could be powered 100% by electricity.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">I will be very clear, the Saint-Bruno position has the capacity. This is a position that has been the subject of work recently, there is the electrical capacity to serve new large-scale projects, assures Hydro-Québec spokesperson Maxence Huard-Lefebvre.

But at the same time, the state corporation warns municipalities that would like to restrict natural gas.

We say be careful […] If we go 100% electric in all projects, everywhere in Quebec, it will have a huge impact on the capacity of the network to meet demand, especially during the winter peak, when it is warmer cold as -12 [°C], he assures.

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Maxence Huard-Lefebvre, spokesperson for Hydro-Québec

For several months, Hydro-Québec has been promoting dual energy, a mix of electricity and natural gas, which would reduce pressure on the network. The state-owned company also maintains that the use of renewable natural gas (RNG) is a good way to decarbonize Quebec.

Currently, there has 2% RNG in the Quebec natural gas network. The rest comes from gas of fossil origin.

This message from the state company fuels uncertainty among elected officials and hinders their work, believes Vincent Fortier.

It creates immense confusion which slows down the will of the municipal councils of cities which want to decarbonize, particularly new constructions, indicates the elected official.

Same story for Jean-Pierre Finet, analyst at the Regroupement des organisms Environnemental en Énergie (ROEE).

Hydro has been trying for several months to discourage municipalities from banning gas in new construction. As if gas were an absolutely necessary evil to manage the peak in new buildings. The mayors are not fooled, they know very well that there is only 2% GNR in the network, says Mr. Finet.

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Jean-Pierre Finet is an energy expert.

The latter recalls that the state company saw its surpluses melt away in particular due to export contracts. Hydro will also provide a fifth of the electricity for New York City, which itself has banned gas in new construction.

It's still ironic, we find ourselves the worst-shod shoemakers in North America. We sell our electricity to help them decarbonize, but we cannot decarbonize because of that.

A quote from Jean-Pierre Finet, ROEE analyst

This is not the first time that the state corporation has intervened with Quebec municipalities in recent months.

In winter 2023, Radio -Canada reported that Hydro-Québec was concerned about the new regulation that the City of Montreal is preparing to limit the use of gas in buildings.

We are talking with several municipalities, says Mr. Huard Lefebvre. It is no secret that we have had discussions with the City of Montreal. I think the City was well aware of the issues related to regulations that would have been too strict. It arrived with a balanced settlement.

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Hydro-Québec is concerned about the regulations against natural gas adopted in Quebec cities.

Last spring, the state-owned company openly criticized the City of Laval for its intention to ban natural gas in new construction. p>

Such a decision would have direct consequences on our ability to effectively electrify the Laval territory, Hydro argued in the daily Le Devoir.

Several municipalities have adopted regulations limiting natural gas in new buildings, including Prévost, Candiac and Mont-Saint-Hilaire.

The Union of Municipalities (UMQ) has just launched a decarbonization journey for cities. This process is being done in partnership with Hydro-Québec and Énergir.

Vincent Fortier says he is disappointed with Hydro-Québec's attitude in this matter.

Hydro-Québec does not clearly support cities that want to move away from fossil gas. I wonder if we still have control over our house. I would like us to return to this pride and for the state corporation to help us decarbonize, he concludes.

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