Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Private sale of electricity: consultations requested

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Currently, Hydro-Québec has a monopoly on the sale and of electricity distribution, but this 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 does not ;never presented such an idea in its electoral platform.

Faced with anticipated electricity shortages in the near future, the Legault government is considering tabling the next month a bill that would legalize the direct sale of electricity from one private company to another, which is currently prohibited. With some exceptions (Hydro Sherbrooke and Hydro Joliette), Hydro-Québec has a monopoly on the distribution of this 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 a company to produce its own electricity (wind, solar, small dam, etc.), but it can only use it for its own needs. It does 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 is to call into question the legacy of the premiers of Quebec to origin of the nationalization and development of hydroelectricity. This currently generates around $3 billion in dividends per year for the state coffers.

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The minister [of Economy, Innovation, and Energy] Pierre Fitzgibbon wants to transform us into an 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 develop a distribution network that she would not have planned.

An opinion 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 wind all the time, he stressed in an interview on the show Midi info, on ICI Premiere.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">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 create 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 up 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 must be creative.

An opinion shared by several energy specialists, such as 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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PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon

For the Bloc Québécois, this reflection must be Quebecois, only Quebecois, and involve all of Quebec society. The New Democratic Party considers this news very worrying.

For its part, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents some of Hydro's union members -Quebec, promises to oppose this retrograde conservative reform by all possible legal means. Two weeks ago, seven Hydro-Québec unions launched an advertising campaign to share their fears of privatization of the state-owned company.

Remember that to meet future demand, Hydro-Québec wants to add 8,000 to 9,000 MW in additional energy by 2035, the equivalent of at least five Roman complexes.

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