There are many ways climate change can impact Hydro-Québec’s activities: changes in the natural inflows of water that supply generating stations, seasonal shifts in power demand or extreme weather conditions that can damage generation, transmission and distribution equipment. A founding member of the Ouranos consortium, Hydro-Québec has long been investigating the measures it needs to implement to adapt to climate change.

According to a plausible GHG emission scenario studied by Ouranos, we could be facing a 2°C to 4°C rise in temperatures by 2050. By the end of the century, this increase could reach 4°C to 7°C in southern Québec and 5°C to 10°C in the north.

In terms of hydrology, studies suggest an average annual flow increase of about 12% in northern Québec (Baie-James region) and 5% in the south (Outaouais region) by 2050. Hydro-Québec takes these forecasts into account when planning its facilities and the refurbishment of some of its hydraulic structures. By implementing various measures, both structural (addition of turbines or resizing of equipment) and non-structural (revision of management rules), the company will be prepared to leverage the upcoming changes in hydrometeorological conditions.

The increased temperatures will also modify the annual energy demand profile. In winter, demand will drop due to reduced heating needs, and in summer it will increase from rising air-conditioning needs. Overall, energy demand in all sectors (residential, industrial, commercial and institutional) will be 2.7% lower than what it would have been without the effects of climate change, according to the median scenario for 2050.

Furthermore, we are anticipating the effects of extreme weather conditions (wind, ice, wet snow, etc.) on our generation, transmission and distribution facilities. The power industry in Québec and Canada could be among the areas most directly affected by climate change.

Powerful water at the Paugan generating station spillway outlet, on the Rivière Gatineau in the Outaouais, during the spring flood.

Adaptation to climate change

Launched in 2011 by IREQ, Ouranos, Rio Tinto and the Québec government, the (cQ)2 project is developing hydrological modeling tools and practices for assessing the impacts of climate change on hydraulic regimes. Every two years, IREQ’s scientists update the projected hydrological changes in over 200 watersheds. We use the results to adjust water inflow forecasts at our facilities and to manage water-resource systems. Since past observations no longer provide any guarantee of what will happen in the future, we are reviewing the relevance of incorporating this project’s climate scenarios into our procedures.

We also contributed to development of a tool to optimize management of the La Grande complex structures. It will be used to assess the long-term impacts of climate change, up to 2100, and to study the effects on management of the complex.

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