Quebec’s 2006-2015 Energy Plan (Stratégie énergétique 2006-2015) created expectations for renewable energy development in the Province. A commitment to 4000 MW of wind power production capacity, the signing of contracts with small hydro producers and ambitious GGE reduction targets all pointed to growth for the sector.
From May 2013 to April 2014, however, things seemed almost at a standstill. The government not only delayed concrete action in several files, but cancelled its own small hydro power development program. The RFP for the last 800 MW of wind power, awaited since late 2012, was not announced until November 2013, leaving the burgeoning manufacturing sector wondering about its chances of survival.
In the bioenergy sectors, government policies were inconsistent, on the one hand subsidizing the construction of biogas plants, on the other, providing no outlet for their end product. The Régie de l’énergie rejected Gaz Métro’s bid to inject gas produced by the St-Hyacinthe water treatment facility in its distribution network, a decision that dampened the sector’s hope of quickly developing a biogas market in Quebec.
In the fall of 2013, the government set-up an Energy Commission that was to hear and take into consideration stakeholders’ suggestions before making recommendations to the government in anticipation of the next Energy Plan. These recommendations, submitted in February 2014, were questionable on several counts, but in particular missed the mark on issues affected by the unforeseen and quite significant rise in gas and electricity prices in the US over the course of the winter.
Rather than supporting renewables, the government gave precedence to energy efficiency measures and to projects headed by public bodies. As a case in point, in the last RFP for wind power, Hydro-Quebec was awarded responsibility for developing 200 MW, notwithstanding its rather lukewarm attitude toward holding wind power assets. Quebec also appeared to lean toward fossil fuel development : it considered inverting its pipeline to import and refine oil sands crude and started discussing oil exploration on its own territory.
Too much power
A 10TWh drop in demand by Quebec’s industrial sector coupled with the commissioning of new production facilities caused Hydro-Quebec to enter a cyclical surplus energy phase. The media hammered home the idea that Quebec was producing too much electricity, which argument served both to justify the abandonment of Quebec's program for small hydro power development and to call for an end to wind power expansion. To make matters worse, Hydro-Quebec attributed up to 2,7% of the rate hike request it presented before the Régie de l'énergie solely to wind power, adding that, since it was producing surplus energy, it had no need for wind or any other new source of power generation.
Despite all the efforts exerted by opponents to harm renewable energy, a Crop-Radio-Canada poll published in March 2014 announced that 53% of the Quebec population supports small hydro development and that fully 71% is in favour of wind power. A report published by the WWF and Ecofys in 2011 spurred a growing movement promoting a world powered entirely by renewable energy by 2050. The proponents of these movements are becoming increasingly vocal on the world stage. Finally, the Quebec wind power sector celebrated the attainment of 2398,3 MW of production capacity and managed to commission a record 900 MW during this difficult period.
This article is a condensed version of our 2013-2014 Annual Report, which is available here (in French only).