A clean and renewable energy source

Because it is clean and renewable, hydropower is among the best solutions in the fight against climate change in North America.

In addition, Hydro-Québec supports the development of other renewables such as wind power.

As a result of its energy choices, Québec has an excellent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions record. Québec hydropower is a generating option with very low GHG emissions which does not release toxic waste.

Hydropower: an abundant and renewable resource

Hydro-Québec was able to harness Québec's tremendous hydroelectric resources—500,000 lakes and 4,500 rivers— by developing 75 rivers for power generation. The company now operates:

  • 62 hydroelectric generating stations
  • 27 large reservoirs
  • 668 dams
  • 99 control structures

In carrying out its operations, Hydro-Québec always takes care to preserve the water bodies’ quality and share their use. By utilizing a renewable resource, Hydro-Québec is ensuring that it can meet the energy needs of present and future generations, while preserving the environment.

Québec hydropower is a generating option with very low GHG emissions which does not release toxic waste. All the water used to generate electricity flows back into the river, with no loss in quality.

The water cycle

By water cycle, we mean the transfers that are continually happening between the three states of water: liquid (oceans, rivers and lakes, groundwater), solid (glaciers) and gaseous (atmosphere).

The driving force behind the water cycle is the sun, whose heat causes water to evaporate. Water vapor rises into the atmosphere, where it condenses on suspended particles to form clouds. The droplets and crystals that create the clouds gradually combine and grow heavier and then fall back to earth in the form of rain or snow. Much of this water is carried back to the oceans by rivers.

And the cycle begins again.

Illustration showing a stream heated by the sun. A series of arrows form a continuous loop that represents the cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation.

Hydropower is recognized worldwide as a renewable energy source

Official recognition by 154 countries

In 2004, the International Conference for Renewable Energies, held in Bonn, Germany, brought together officials and other delegates from 154 countries, including Australia, Switzerland, Spain, Norway, Mexico, Japan, China, Italy, Vietnam, Denmark, France, the United States and Canada. The participants declared that renewable energies included.

  • solar
  • wind
  • hydropower
  • biomass (including biofuels)
  • geothermal

Official recognition by major organizations

  • In September 2009, the 33rd Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers recognized hydropower as a renewable energy source and stated that American and Canadian federal legislation should do the same.
  • In November 2010, the U.S. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (representing the state public service commissioners who regulate essential utility services, including energy, telecommunications, and water) recognized that hydropower facilities can be valuable clean and renewable energy resources.
  • The Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy classifies hydropower as a renewable energy source. The United States gets 9% of its energy from renewable sources, including 35% from hydropower.

Legally recognized by Vermont

On June 4, 2010, Vermont passed a law, titled An Act Relating to Renewable Energy, which recognizes hydropower as a clean, renewable form of energy, regardless of the generating facility’s capacity.

In August 2010, Hydro-Québec signed a long-term (2012–2038) supply contract with two large Vermont-based power distributors.

An energy source with low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Québec hydropower is a generating option with very low GHG emissions which does not release toxic waste.

Québec’s enviable record thanks to hydropower

All electricity generation creates GHG emissions, whether directly or indirectly. However, hydropower ranks as one of the lowest-emission generating options per kilowatthour produced.

GHG emissions in the various sectors of electricity generation

Émission de GES des différentes filières de production d’électricité (en grammes équivalents CO<sub>2</sub> par kWh). Hydraulique au fil de l’eau : 4. Nucléaire : 6. Éolien : 9. Hydraulique avec réservoir : 10. Solaire photovoltaïque : 38. Thermique – gaz naturel : 422. Thermique – charbon : 957.

A hydropower plant with a reservoir in a northern area emits 10 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2.) per kilowatthour produced, the same quantity as wind power and four times less than solar power, generated via photovoltaic panels.This is in part because of the processes used to manufacture wind turbines and solar panels. A hydroelectric generating station emits 100 times less GHG than a coal-fired station.

Methane emissions are not an issue in Québec, because the water in northern reservoirs like ours is cold, and regularly remixed and reoxygenated. A higher level of oxygen in the water means less methane is emitted.

In 2011, the power produced in Québec accounted for 32% of total power generation in Canada from all sources, but was responsible for less than 1% of GHG emissions linked to electric utilities.

GHG emissions in the electricity sector

Émission de GES liées au secteur électrique. Toutes les filières énergétiques, à des degrés divers et à différentes étapes de leur cycle de vie, contribuent à l'émission de gaz à effet de serre. La production d'énergie est à l'origine de 32,5 % des productions de GES des États-Unis, 20,6 % en Alberta, 9,3 % en Ontario et moins de 1 % au Québec. Note: Les données canadiennes englobent les émissions de GES liées à la production d'électricité et à la production de chaleur. Les données américaines concernent uniquement la production d'électricité. Mentionnons toutefois que la contribution de la production de chaleur aux émissions du secteur de l'électricité des États-Unis est très faible.

Again in 2011, the electricity sector accounted for less than 1% of Québec's GHG emissions, compared with 45% (36 Mt) for the transportation sector. Because about 98% of its power (from all producers) is generated by renewables, Québec's GHG emissions were the lowest in Canada, at 10 tonnes per capita.

Clean energy exports

Hydro-Québec exports clean, renewable energy outside Québec. The medium- and long-term outlook for hydropower export sales are very favorable since renewables are essential to any economic growth that includes a reduction in GHG emissions.

In 2012, hydropower exports helped avoid 16 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, or the annual emissions equivalent of 4 million cars, which is almost the equivalent of the annual emissions of all cars and light trucks on Québec roads.


Map - Electricity Generation in Canada and the United States

Map of the different sources of electricity generation in Canada and the U.S. and the impact on greenhouse gases emissions

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