The Legault government still believes in the potential of the hydrogen industry, according to Energy and Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, who stated earlier this week that related proposals would be turned down due to a lack of available electricity.

"We must succeed in hydrogen," said the minister Thursday, when he announced the launch of a green hydrogen train pilot project on the Charlevoix railway.

"It is a molecule that will be profitable in ten to fifteen years. We have to invest today."

While it provides a source of decarbonized energy, producing green hydrogen requires large quantities of electricity, at a time when Hydro-Quebec is forecasting the end of surpluses for 2027.

Quebec will therefore have carefully choose which large industrial projects get the right to use Hydro-Quebec's power.

Earlier this week, Fitzgibbon expressed less enthusiasm about hydrogen. He mentioned that Hydro-Quebec had received proposals for hydrogen production projects requiring a power supply equivalent to 9,000 megawatts (MW) out of a total list of 23,000 MW in industrial projects.

"We can't make hydrogen, there is no electricity," he said at the time.

On Thursday, Fitzgibbon was more optimistic. 

He estimates that between 8,000 and 10,000 MW could be allocated by 2032.

Project selection, which must be "socially acceptable," will be based on greenhouse gas reductions and the projects' economic contribution, particularly in terms of innovation.

Fitzgibbon said that green hydrogen will be prioritized in the heavy transportation and steel production sectors.

"Probably a part, a third, will have to go through hydrogen, because the batteries will not be available. We also want to make green steel. Plasma won't be enough. It will take hydrogen."


The manufacturing company Alstom will pilot a green hydrogen train on the Charlevoix railway this summer. Quebec will finance $3 million of the $8 million project.

"The train that Alstom is bringing will return to Europe in the fall," said Premier François Legault. "Do we want to have many green hydrogen trains in Quebec one day? Yes."

Alstom Americas' president Michael Keroullé said the company has already begun discussions with the provincial government about investing more in Quebec's green hydrogen industry.

"We have a plan that we have presented to the government and to our various partners to bring the technologies to a level of maturity to begin industrialization by 2030," he said.

"There are still a lot of uncertainties about the technology," he added. "It will take a few years. Then we'll look at the industrial phase and, of course, the possibility of building in the best conditions here or in the region."

 This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Feb. 2, 2023.