The History of Hydro-Québec

A daring journey

Hydro-Québec’s history, which began in the 1940s, is marked by bold achievements dictated by the will to harness Québec’s vast hydroelectric potential, in spite of challenges posed by climate and geography. A few highlights:

1944: Creation of the Québec Hydro-Electric Commission

On April 14, the provincial government passed a law expropriating the electric and gas assets of Montreal Light, Heat and Power Company Consolidated (MLH&P) and transferring their ownership and administration to the Québec Hydro-Electric Commission, today Hydro-Québec.

1944–1959: Development of generating facilities

One after the other, Hydro-Québec undertook construction of the second section of Beauharnois generating station, Carillon power station, Bersimis-1 and Bersimis-2, the third section of Beauharnois generating station and, in 1959, the Manic-Outardes complex.

1962: A new head office

Hydro-Québec’s employees moved out of the old “Power Building” at the corner of Saint-Antoine (formerly Craig Street) and Saint-Urbain, which it had inherited from MLH&P in 1944. Hydro-Québec’s new head office, at 75 René-Lévesque Boulevard West (formerly Dorchester Boulevard West), was inaugurated on June 8, 1962.

1963: Second phase of nationalization

On May 1, Hydro-Québec acquired most of the private electricity distributors through a takeover bid. Forty-five of the 46 electricity cooperatives and many municipal distribution systems accepted
Hydro-Québec’s subsequent buyout offer.

1965: Gentilly-1

Hydro-Québec signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to construct an experimental nuclear generating station, Gentilly-1. Hydro-Québec later built another nuclear plant, Gentilly-2, for commercial production. A 1980 moratorium put an end to construction of new nuclear facilities in Québec. Gentilly-2 generating station will stop producing electricity on December 28, 2012.

1965: 735-kV lines, a world first

The world’s first 735-kV lines were commissioned by Hydro-Québec in 1965. These lines transmitted twice as much current as the 315-kV lines that were used at the time.

1967: Creation of Hydro-Québec’s research institute, IREQ

Hydro-Québec established a world-class research centre to benefit from progress in technology. It was inaugurated in 1970 in Varennes, near Montréal.

1968: Excitement at the Manic-Outardes complex

Hydro-Québec finished construction of what was to be the world’s largest multiple arch-and-buttress dam. Originally, it was to have been called Manicouagan-5 dam. Instead, the structure was named Daniel-Johnson, in honor of Québec’s premier at the time, who died hours before the scheduled inauguration ceremony in 1968. Under those circumstances, the inauguration was postponed until the following year.

The Manic-Outardes complex produced other world records: the huge Manic-2 hollow-joint gravity dam, and the Manic-3 dam with its double cutoff wall, reaching a depth of more than 120 metres in the Manicouagan riverbed.

1969: Signature of an agreement with Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation (CF(L)Co)

Under the terms of an agreement with CF(L)Co, Hydro-Québec gained access to almost all the electricity generated at Churchill Falls until the year 2041.

1971: Launch of the “project of the century”

Hydro-Québec commenced development of the La Grande complex in the Baie-James region. Project management was assigned to Société d’énergie de la Baie James, which subsequently became a wholly owned subsidiary of Hydro-Québec. In 1996, when the final generating station, Laforge-2, was commissioned, La Grande became the largest hydroelectric generating facility in the world. a title it retained for a number of years.

1975: Signature of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement

Hydro-Québec signed an unprecedented social contract that established the rights and responsibilities of the Cree and Inuit, and of the other parties involved, as well as the terms and conditions that were to govern resource development in the Baie-James territory.

1981: Creation of Nouveler

Nouveler was responsible for developing new energy sources and promoting energy efficiency. Nouveler was restructured in 1997, becoming a venture capital company: Hydro-Québec CapiTech. This wholly owned subsidiary of Hydro-Québec is still active.

1984: Hydro-Québec’s first environmental policy

In 1995, Hydro-Québec began publishing an Environmental Performance Report, which has since become the Sustainability Report.

1987: Inauguration of Hydro-Québec’s Laboratoire des technologies électrochimiques et des électrotechnologies (LTEE) in Shawinigan

The laboratory has a mandate to support the development of industrial applications for electricity. In May 2002, its name was shortened to Laboratoire des technologies de l’énergie (LTE; energy technology laboratory). It is part of Hydro-Québec’s research institute, IREQ.

1994: Start of the work on Sainte-Marguerite-3 dam

The head at Sainte-Marguerite-3 is an exceptional 330 metres—seven times the height of Niagara Falls.

1996: Creation of the Régie de l’énergie

The Québec government established Québec’s energy board, an agency responsible for regulatory supervision of the distribution and transmission of electric power.

1997: Opening of the North American wholesale electricity market

Hydro-Québec gave the entire North American market access to its transmission system. It created a new division, Hydro-Québec TransÉnergie, to offer all its customers reliable, high-quality power transmission. HQ Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Hydro-Québec, obtained a licence as a power marketer in the U.S. wholesale market.

2000: Billion-dollar net income

Hydro-Québec’s net income broke the billion-dollar barrier for the first time ($1.078 billion).

2001–2002: Creation of new divisions

Hydro-Québec Distribution, Hydro-Québec Production and Hydro-Québec Équipement were added to Hydro-Québec TransÉnergie (created in 1997), bringing the number of divisions to four. In early 2002, Hydro-Québec Distribution filed its first Electricity Supply Plan with the Régie de l’énergie.

2001: Energy Efficiency Plan

Hydro-Québec presents its Energy Efficiency Plan, a set of programs and tools to help customers save energy.

2002: Signature of the historic Paix des Brave

On February 7, the Québec government signed a historic agreement with the Grand Council of the Crees, paving the way for two major hydroelectric projects in the Baie-James region: the development of Eastmain-1 and of Eastmain-1-A and the Rivière Rupert diversion.

2005: Commissioning of Toulnustouc generating station

The dam and dike of Toulnustouc generating station, located North of Baie-Comeau, were built using an upstream facing made of concrete, a technique that is rare in Québec.

2007: Commissioning of Péribonka generating station

This 405-MW generating station is located in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region.

2009: Commissioning of a new interconnection with Ontario

This 1,200-MW capacity interconnection was designed to promote power interchanges between Québec and Ontario and to secure supply for the Outaouais region.

2010: The LineScout robot wins an Edison Award

Developed in collaboration with IREQ, the LineScout robot was commissioned in 2006. This sophisticated tool inspects hard-to-reach live transmission lines. Hydro-Québec and the British Columbia Transmission Corporation, with whom the company works to advance the technology, won the 2010 Edison Award for the LineScout’s contribution to the power industry.

2012: Official launching of The Electric Circuit

March 30, 2012, marked the official launch of Canada’s first public charging network for plug-in electric vehicles (EVs). The 240-V Electric Circuit plug-in stations supplied with clean, renewable energy are installed and available to charge EVs in several parking lots in the greater Montréal and Québec areas.

2012: Inauguration of the Eastmain-1-A powerhouse

The Eastmain-1-A powerhouse was inaugurated on June 28, 2012. It can generate 2.3 TWh of energy per year, the annual consumption equivalent of over 135,000 homes.

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