Op-ed Contributed by William Walter Kay BA LL B © 2019

William Kay blogs at: http://ecofascism.com/  

Geography is destiny. Many of Quebec’s 4,500 rivers flow through sparsely populated northern reaches where flooding vast tracts elicits scant cost. Harnessing this bounty was assigned to Hydro-Quebec by that corporation’s sole shareholder, le Gouvernement du Quebec.

Hydro-Quebec’s 62 hydroelectric stations generate up to 36,400 megawatts (MW). Hydro-Quebec also owns transmission and distribution rights to Newfoundland’s 5,400 MW Churchill Falls facility.

Getting this electricity to market requires 34,000 kilometres of high voltage line – North America’s longest transmission system. These high voltage wires splice into 259,000 kilometres of local grid to carry North America’s cheapest electricity (7 cents a kWh) to every household in la Belle Province.

In 2018 Hydro-Quebec handed $4.5 billion* to the Quebec Government. This consisted of: $3.1 billion in profits; $700 million in water royalties; $300 million in utility taxes; $200 million in fees levied to guarantee debt; and $100 million in grants to government agencies. These figures don’t include payroll taxes clipped from Hydro-Quebec’s 19,904 employees. Nor do they include taxes paid by Hydro-Quebec’s contractors and suppliers, or their 20,000 employees.

Hydro-Quebec buys 90% of its goods and services from Quebec firms; an annual outlay of $3 billion. Hydro-Quebec disburses $30 million a year in arts, education and charitable donations; including $550,000 to green groups.

Of the 198 billion kWh Hydro-Quebec sold in 2018, about 18% (36 billion kWh) went outside Quebec. Forty-seven percent of exports went to New England; 24% to New York; 19% to Ontario; and 7% to New Brunswick. Net electricity exports yielded $745 million; down from a 2015 peak of $952 million.

Despite the dip Hydro-Quebec remains bullish about exports. For one thing:

The energy available to us is more than the quantity required to meet Quebec’s electrical needs.

For another, Quebec possesses vast untapped hydraulic potential. Their Romaine 4 generating station comes on line in 2021. Their 3,200 MW Great Whale River project, stymied by eco-activism in the 1990s, remains shovel-ready. Most importantly:

We (Hydro-Quebec) still have growth opportunities because markets outside Quebec want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Hydro-Quebec benefits from: “a growing recognition of the environmental attributes of hydroelectricity.”

Climate Change figured prominently in 2010 when Hydro-Quebec signed contracts pursuant to which Vermont power distributers agreed to buy Hydro-Quebec electricity through to 2038.

In 2018 Hydro-Quebec and Massachusetts authorities inked a 20-year contract for 9.45 billion kWh per annum – Hydro-Quebec’s biggest deal to date. Hydro-Quebec prevailed over 46 rival bidders largely due to preferences for zero emissions energy mandated by Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act. Getting this electricity to Massachusetts requires completing the New England Clean Energy Connect – a 330-kilometre high voltage line to Lewiston, Maine. Hydro-Quebec deploys climate arguments to overcome local opposition to its transmission lines.

Unsurprisingly, climate messaging pervades Hydro-Quebec literature. The phrases “sustainable development” and “clean and renewable” rhythmically repeat. Hydro-Quebec’s Strategic Plan 2016-2020 promises the company will “play a central role in the emergence of a low-carbon economy.” Hydro-Quebec’s website, and its 2018 Annual Report, contain line upon line of climate change apologetics; like:

Hydropower is the ideal means of meeting the major challenges facing North America in terms of reducing greenhouse gases and ensuring a secure electricity supply.”

And:

Our electricity, clean and renewable, helps combat climate change while promoting a greener, stronger economy.”

This isn’t corporate greenwash. Hydro-Quebec invests billions in climate orientated infrastructure and innovation. Hydro-Quebec purchases 100% of the output of 39 independently owned Quebec-based wind farms. Hydro-Quebec does likewise for 7 biomass, 3 biogas and 5 micro-hydro producers. Hydro-Quebec does not need this electricity. It seeks expertise in multiple forms of “climate friendly” power, and in integrating these energy forms with largescale hydropower production. They aim to “export power and expertise.” They are commercialising innovations in Latin America.

Hydro-Quebec’s Institut de Recherche d’ Hydro-Quebec (IREQ) has an annual budget of $116 million and 500 staff. No other North American power company runs a comparable operation. Much of IREQ’s work is directed toward transportation electrification i.e. R&D on batteries and powertrains for electric vehicles (EVs); with a keen focus on advanced metallurgy. IREQ also researches thermal storage technology and the integration of wind and hydro power. IREQ cooperates with SONY, Merck and BASF.

In 2018 Hydro-Quebec and the Quebec Government co-launched the Center for Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage. The Center’s first budget is variably given at $20 and $32 million. It will start with 70 employees. The hope is the Center will fund itself by hawking Hydro-Quebec’s proprietary technologies. Hydro-Quebec owns 800 patents and 60 licenses. The Center will partner with the US Army Research Laboratory and the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Its focus is battery innovation.

TM4 Inc. began in 1998 as a joint venture between Hydro-Quebec and Ohio-based Dana Inc. In 2018 Dana bought 55% ownership of TM4 for $165 million. Hydro-Quebec retains 45% ownership and a veto over strategic decisions. TM4 manufactures components for hybrid EV powertrains.

Hydro-Quebec is electrifying its corporate vehicle fleet while helping to electrify Quebec’s overall vehicle fleet. Hydro-Quebec eagerly endorsed the June 15, 2018 passage of Quebec’s Act to promote the establishment of a public fast-charging service for electric vehicles. This legislation is the latest salvo in a 25-year provincial campaign to promote EVs.

Hydro-Quebec installs home charging stations for EV owners. The provincial government gives residential customers $350 rebates on charging station purchases and $250 rebates on installation.      

Hydro-Quebec helped found the Electric Circuit partnership in 2012. Electric Circuit partners (Via Rail, Lotto Canada, Correctional Services of Canada, plus hundreds of municipalities, colleges and businesses) have installed 2,000 public EV chargers including 180 fast (400 volt) chargers. The Quebec Government gives businesses and institutions $5,000 for each public charger installed. Hydro-Quebec’s 2018 Annual Report references a plan to install 1,600 fast chargers over 10 years.

Hydro-Quebec co-sponsored the 2017 and 2019 World Summits on Sustainable Mobility. Michelin is the primary organiser but Total S. A. and the Quebec Government are indispensable participants as is the Summit’s host: the City of Montreal. The 2019 Summit attracted 5,000 participants from business, government and academia. The big idea was “accelerating decarbonisation in the Americas.”

The other half of the electromobility revolution involves expanding and electrifying public transit. Here again, Hydro-Quebec is proactive. Hydro-Quebec notes with pride that 50% of Montreal-region transit users are already electrotransiteers thanks to the Metro line and the Montreal-Deus-Montagne commuter train. In 2016 Hydro-Quebec and Montreal transit authorities unveiled plans for another electric rail line. Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ) will supply most of the $5.5 billion financing.

CDPQ manages $309 billion in assets for five Quebec Government, and Quebec public employee, pension funds. Like Hydro-Quebec, CDPQ’s literature is saturated with climate messaging; to wit:

Because climate change is more than ever felt around the world, with negative human, environmental and economic consequences, we have decided to give priority to this issue.”

And:

Climate change is no longer a distant risk. Every day we live the human, environmental and economic impacts. For the Caisse, the need to act is beyond dispute.”

As with Hydro-Quebec, this isn’t greenwash:

The Caisse is already among the largest investors in renewable energy in the world, and we are committed to doing even more.”

CDPQ owns $30 billion in “low carbon” (solar, wind and electric transportation) assets inside and outside Quebec.

The directors and executives of Hydro-Quebec and CDPQ are Quebec Government appointees drawn from an inner circle of corporate, bureaucratic and academic mandarins. This milieu constitutes a rigid political compact inextricably vested into the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis.

*All dollar values are in Canadian currency. The current exchange rate is C$1 = 74 US cents.

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