Québec, Ontario and California are partners in the Western Climate Initiative’s carbon market. The Québec and California markets have been officially linked since January 1, 2014, and a first joint auction with Ontario is scheduled for January 2018. Under the Québec cap-and-trade (C&T) system, organizations, such as Hydro-Québec, that emit 25,000 tonnes or more of CO2 equivalent per year must offset their emissions with their GHG emission allowance, in accordance with set terms and conditions.

The Québec C&T system allocates carbon emission units based on the tonnes of GHGs that organizations can emit over a given period. At the end of each period, emitters must report their emissions and use their emission allowance to “pay” for them. The limit is lowered every year, with a view to reducing GHG emissions.

Hydro-Québec is subject to the C&T system for the following three emission sources:

  • The oil-fired thermal generating station on Îles-de-la-Madeleine
  • Electricity purchased outside Québec, mainly from thermal sources
  • Losses of insulating gases (SF6 and CF4) from certain transmission facilities.


  • Emissions avoided by net exports of electricity totaled 8,362,305 t CO2 eq. (7,953,810 t CO2 eq. in 2016).
  • Atmospheric emissions from electricity generation and purchases in Québec were significantly lower than the average for neighboring Canadian provinces and U.S. states: 210,944 t CO2/TWh (378 times less), 412 t SO2/TWh (1557nbsp;times less) and 2,539 t NOx/TWh (287 times less). Every year, Hydro-Québec updates a fact sheet, Energy Supplies and Air Emissions [PDF 190 Kb], that industrial customers can use to calculate their carbon balance.
  • Electric vehicles were acquired for Jean-Lesage generating station as part of an employee transportation pilot project (Manicouagan).
  • A Rate and GHG Calculator was made available to potential data center customers for calculating emissions avoided and indirect water consumption, based on the data center consumption and location.
  • We responded to requests for proposals from the state of Massachusetts to reduce its GHG emissions and from New York state for the purchase of renewable energy.
  • We began updating the policy on managing the exercise of voting rights for the Hydro-Québec pension plan in order to incorporate best practices. This policy is an important tool for ensuring responsible investment by the plan, with a view to supporting the fight against global warming. It demands increased transparency from the companies in which the plan invests, among other things. Almost all the external managers that the pension fund deals with have signed the UN Principles for Responsible Investment established in 2006.

Carbon Footprint – Changes Since 1990

Overall, our GHG emissions have declined substantially since 1990. Direct emissions have dropped by 79%. Electricity generation from fossil fuels remains the main direct source of emissions. Although the proportion of emission sources remains comparable, emission volume is much smaller. The 85% reduction for thermal power plants is mainly attributable to the shutdown of seven thermal generating stations.

Our indirect GHG emissions have declined considerably since 1990. Scope 2 and 3 emissions have dropped by 95%. Electricity purchases represent our main indirect source of emissions. However, emissions linked to these purchases have also decreased substantially, by 97%.

GHG Emissions From Hydro-Québec Operations – 2017
Category Operations Emissions
(t CO2 eq.)
Direct sources (scope 1)
Generating stations Thermal power plants 227,936
Mobile sources Vehicle fleet 51,063
Hydro-Québec aircraft fleet 13,569
Utility vehicles (e.g., snowmobiles, tractors, snowblowers) 927
Propane-fueled lift trucks 89
Fuel use System maintenance generators 3,869
Emergency and jobsite generators 525
Building heating 458
Other uses Equipment containing CF4 and SF6 21,832
Aerosols 412
Equipment containing HFCs 990
Synchronous compensators 24
Indirect sources (scope 2)
Electrical losses Power transmission and distribution system losses 7,890
Indirect sources (scope 3)
Indirect sources Electricity purchases 108,400
Business travel – employee personal vehicles 5,581
Vehicles leased long-term 1,227
Business travel – train 12
Business travel – commercial airplanes 932
Helicopters 3,982
Chartered airplanes 4,876
Life cycle of fuel 50,851
Total emissions
Total emissions Direct sources (level 1) 321,694
Indirect sources (level 2) 7,890
Indirect sources (level 3) 175,861
Direct and indirect sources 505,444
Emissions avoided (Net exports of electricity) 8,362,305

GHG emissions from Hydro-Québec operations represent 0,6% of emissions in Québec.

Overall total and sum of subtotals may differ due to rounding.

Emissions avoided by net electricity exports

Every year, Hydro-Québec conducts power interchanges with neighboring systems in both the United States and Canada. Our exports have exceeded our imports for a number of years. The companies we do business with use several different generating options, some of which (coal, oil, gas) generate more atmospheric emissions than others (hydropower, nuclear, other renewables). Consequently, electricity imports by Hydro-Québec result in atmospheric emissions outside Québec (at our Canadian and U.S. partners’ facilities), while our exports enable these companies to avoid such emissions.

Calculating emissions avoided

The calculation of emissions avoided is based on emission factors specified in the Regulation respecting mandatory reporting of certain emissions of contaminants into the atmosphere. The regulation establishes an emission factor for each electricity market with which Hydro-Québec does business. To calculate the emissions avoided, we apply the emission factor to the net quantity of electricity exported to the corresponding market and factor in the emissions in Québec associated with these net exports.

In 2017, emissions avoided by net electricity exports equal Hydro-Québec’s direct emissions over the last 17 years.

Emissions avoided by net exports of electricity: This graph shows exports and emissions avoided from 2014 to 2017 (t éq. CO2). 2014: 6,227; 2015: 7,374; 2016: 7,954; 2017 : 8362.

The positive differential is tending to wane as the U.S. Northeast turns to new sources of supply with lower GHG emissions.

Atmospheric emissions from Hydro-Québec thermal generation operations. These graphs show that most of Hydro-Québec’s emissions are from thermal generating stations supplying off-grid systems. Emissions from generating stations connected to the main grid come from the Bécancour generating station, used during peak periods.

Most emissions are produced by thermal generating stations in off-grid systems. Only Bécancour thermal generating station supplies the main grid during peak periods. Variations in GHG, SO2 and NOx emissions are attributable to annual variations in the thermal stations’ output.

See also