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.

Activities in 2016

  • Emissions avoided by net exports of electricity: 7,953,810 t CO2 eq. (7,373,851 t CO2 eq. in 2015).
  • Atmospheric emissions from electricity generation and purchases in Québec were significantly lower than the average for neighboring Canadian provinces and U.S. states: 360 t CO2/TWh (569 times less), 3.1 t SO2/TWh (150 times less) and 7.5 t NOx/TWh (281 times less). Every year, Hydro-Québec updates a fact sheet, Energy Supplies and Air Emissions, that industrial customers can use to calculate their carbon balance.
  • Hydro-Québec’s pension plan administrators reviewed all the share portfolios ($9 billion) for their GHG emissions with a view to supporting the fight against global warming. Eventually, the results of this review will be incorporated into the company’s responsible investment policy. Most of the plan’s external managers have signed the UN Principles for Responsible Investment that were established in 2006.
  • We prepared a response to the request for proposals issued by Massachusetts in 2017 for the purchase of hydropower.
  • Trees and bushes were planted on one of our sites in Anjou’s industrial sector to curb the heat island effect and improve the quality of our employees’ work environment. This greening project was carried out jointly between Hydro-Québec, the Conseil régional de l’environnement de Montréal, Soverdi and the Anjou borough as part of the ILEAU program.
  • In December, Voyagez futé awarded us a Pro-mobilité durable certificate in the Leader category, in recognition of the sustainable mobility initiatives we have taken with our employees and customers.

Carbon Footprint – Changes Since 1990

Overall, there has been a tremendous decrease in our GHG emissions since 1990. Direct emissions have dropped by 78%. 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 is mainly attributable to the shutdown of seven thermal generating stations.

Our indirect emissions have declined considerably since 1990. Level 2 and 3 emissions have dropped by 96%. Electricity purchases represent our main indirect source. However, emissions linked to these purchases have also decreased substantially, by 98%.

GHG Emissions From Hydro-Québec Operations – 2016
Category Operations Emissions
(t CO2 eq.)
Direct sources (level 1)
Generating stations Thermal power plants 227,249
Mobile sources Vehicle fleet 51,571
Hydro-Québec aircraft fleet 13,485
Utility vehicles (e.g., snowmobiles, tractors, snowblowers) 899
Propane-fueled lift trucks 81
Fuel use System maintenance generators 4,304
Emergency and jobsite generators 563
Building heating 492
Other uses Equipment containing CF4 and SF6 4,200
Aerosols 468
Equipment containing HFCs 467
Indirect sources (level 2)
Electrical losses Power transmission and distribution system losses 5,113
Indirect sources (level 3)
Indirect sources Electricity purchases 69,167
Business travel – employee personal vehicles 5,362
Vehicles leased long-term 907
Business travel – train 37
Business travel – commercial airplanes 1,635
Helicopters 3,288
Chartered airplanes 5,619
Life cycle of fuel 54,074
Total emissions
Total emissions Direct sources (level 1) 346,779
Indirect sources (level 2) 5,113
Indirect sources (level 3) 140,089
Direct and indirect sources 491,981

GHG emissions from Hydro-Québec operations represent 0.6% of emissions in Québec.

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

With over 99% of our output generated from water, Hydro-Québec’s net GHG emission record is among the best in North America. The emissions generated by our operations (346,779 t CO2 eq.) are largely offset by the emissions avoided (7,953,810 t CO2 eq.) through our net exports.

Emissions avoided by net exports of electricity: This graph shows exports and emissions avoided from 2013 to 2016 (t éq. CO2). 2013: 8,984; 2014: 6,227; 2015: 7,374; 2016: 7,954.

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 related to operation of off-grid systems. The main grid is supplied by Bécancour thermal generating station during peak periods only.

See also