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Hydro-Quebec has planned poorly for industrial demand, says energy minister

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Hydro-Quebec has planned poorly for industrial demand, according to Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon.

During question period on Tuesday, the official opposition argued that as many as 35 per cent of businesses do not have access to enough energy to meet their current needs, and are therefore forced to curb their investments and expansion.

In response, the minister began by arguing that it's "good news" that "30 per cent of companies want electricity", because these are "major projects" for Quebec.

Fitzgibbon blamed the corporation's management for the energy deficit. Demand far outstrips supply, he agreed.

"We're in a difficult situation,” said Fitzgibbon. "Indeed, demand has been poorly planned at the industrial level by Hydro-Quebec."

He added, however, that Hydro's "ambitious" plan tabled in November is aimed at correcting the energy deficit.

"We're working closely with Hydro-Quebec to allocate megawatts as they become available, and Quebec's SMEs will clearly be taken into account," he said.

In the Quebec legislature, Liberal MNA Philomena Rotiroti quoted the president of Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec, Véronique Proulx, as saying that businesses "are in the midst of uncertainty about energy supply."

In April, the minister indicated that he authorized the procurement of several of the 150 projects submitted to him, in addition to the 11 he had already accepted.

In a brief submitted to a parliamentary commission last year, Hydro-Quebec even pointed out that demand had stagnated in recent years, increasing by barely 0.1 per cent.

In an interview with a Quebecor newspaper, a spokesperson for the state-owned company said that Hydro had not seen the evolution in demand from industrial players who want to decarbonize in order to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Hydro estimates that an additional 150 to 200 TWh will be needed to meet Quebec's electricity demand by 2050, twice as much electricity as is currently produced.

By 2035, an estimated 60 TWh will be needed, which translates into between 8,000 and 9,000 MW of additional capacity.

Hydro estimates that "75 per cent will be used to decarbonize Quebec's current energy consumption, while 25 per cent will fuel economic growth, particularly in the industrial sectors required for the energy transition."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 28, 2024.

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