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Currently, Hydro-Québec has a monopoly on the sale and of electricity distribution, but that could change.
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Too big, too fast and rather risky: the Legault government's interest in calling into question Hydro-Québec's monopoly on electricity distribution deserves a public debate, say several elected officials and experts, who deplore that the CAQ has never presented a such an idea in his electoral platform.
Due to the high demand for electricity from businesses and the limits of the network, the Legault government is considering tabling, next month, a bill that would legalize the direct sale of electricity from a business private to another, which is currently prohibited. With some exceptions (Hydro-Sherbrooke and Hydro-Joliette, etc.), Hydro-Québec has a monopoly on the distribution of this type of energy.
Hydro-Québec does not belong to Mr. Legault but to Quebecers […]. This privatization was not in the CAQ's electoral platform and 60% of Quebecers did not vote for the CAQ, underlined Gregory Kelley, spokesperson for the Liberal Party of Quebec on energy.
Currently, the law allows companies to produce their own electricity (wind, solar, small dam, etc.), but these companies can only use it for their own needs. They do not have the right to distribute it to other companies, except in the case of electricity produced from forest biomass.
According to the three opposition parties, modifying the Act respecting the Régie de l'nergie to create a private market for the sale of electricity would amount to calling into question the legacy of the premiers of Quebec at the origin of nationalization and development of hydroelectricity. Currently, it generates approximately three billion dollars in dividends per year in the state coffers.
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The minister [of the Economy, Innovation, and Energy] Pierre Fitzgibbon wants to transform us into the energy Wild West for foreign multinationals.
A quote from Haroun Bouazzi, spokesperson for Québec solidaire en matter of energy
Québec solidaire fears that this will trigger competition to monopolize the specialized labor and materials necessary for the construction of wind turbines or dams and that, ultimately, Hydro-Québec will be forced to create a distribution network that she would not have planned.
This opinion is partly shared by Normand Mousseau, professor at the University of Montreal, who co-chaired the Commission on Quebec's energy issues. It is not true that companies will come and establish themselves in [energy] self-sufficiency in Quebec. It won't happen because there isn't any wind all the time, he stressed in an interview on the show
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In addition, this breach in the public monopoly on electricity production and distribution will deprive Hydro-Québec and the government of the possibility of ruling out overly energy-intensive projects that do not fit with the decarbonization of the Quebec economy. If we make a bill that opens the door without a framework and without a vision, it will become difficult to meet Quebec's environmental objectives, added Mr. Mousseau.
In Minister Fitzgibbon's office, we are reassuring. Private electricity projects avoid using the limited resources of Hydro-Québec and [are done] without financial contribution from the government and Hydro-Québec.
It's true that there is a reflection in the government on private production, admitted Mr. Fitzgibbon on the X network on Friday. I am open, but the decision has not been made. If we open [the door] to private production, it will be marked out by Hydro-Québec and limited on the territory. Faced with the scale of the energy transition challenge, we have to be creative.
Several energy specialists are of this opinion, notably Pierre-Olivier Pineau and Sylvain Audette, from HEC Montreal, who nevertheless emphasize the importance of clearly defining the rules.
For the Parti Québécois (PQ), self-production intended to be sold to Hydro-Québec may be acceptable under certain conditions, but sales to third parties must remain prohibited. According to the leader of the PQ, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, if the CAQ had the idea of destroying the nationalization of our electricity, it should mention it during the electoral campaign.
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