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Building dams to export? The hydroelectric mirage

Quebec will have to increase its electricity production capacity by 65% by 2050, the equivalent of 17 hydroelectric complexes similar to that of the Romaine, in order to achieve carbon neutrality, we learned. The duty. Even if Hydro-Quebec is betting on wind and solar power, it does not rule out building new dams.

Worrying, this openness to new dam projects... Although no major project is in sight for the moment, the repercussions are still to be feared, especially with regard to projects to protect our waterways . It is imperative to temper the enthusiasm for increasing hydroelectricity production without taking into account the impacts on natural environments.

"The solution to meeting commitments to climate change certainly does not involve developing all the rivers and streams in Quebec"

Alain Saladzius, President of the Rivières Foundation

A risky electricity export contract

The contract to export surplus electricity to New York City also appears attractive from an environmental point of view if it makes it possible to eliminate production from coal.

But won't this coal-fired production be moved or simply resold elsewhere in the United States? What will be the final economic benefit once the selling price is known, minus current sales in the short-term market? Indeed, it is unlikely that this contract will bring the expected $20 billion to Quebec, since this electricity is already exported on the free market. In addition, the low price of Quebec hydroelectricity is greatly influenced by that of the dam at Churchill Falls, which is bought at 0.5 cents/kilowatt hour from Newfoundland and Labrador.

So will it be necessary to build new expensive dams in Quebec soon? Let us beware of the mirage of the construction of hydroelectric dams as the solution to climate change, since it is only one drop of water among many others such as wind or solar energy. Any new production has its environmental consequences.

Photo credit: Marcus Ganahl

About the author

Viviane was visiting Fondation Rivières as a communication and mobilization officer.


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