Our approach

Energy transition and innovation

Managing electricity consumption in a northern climate

We offer energy efficiency programs to encourage our customers to reduce their energy consumption.
Aerial view in fall of a residential neighborhood bordered by a stream.

Quebecers are among the world’s largest consumers of electricity. This is due to two main factors: the large amount of energy needed for heating during our harsh winters and the low cost of electricity in Québec.

Almost all of the electricity consumed in the province is generated by water and wind. We also buy electricity generated from other renewable sources such as biomass. Throughout the year, power sales and exchanges take place with other Canadian provinces and neighboring U.S. states.

We currently have a number of contracts for deliveries of electricity generated by other sources such as wind power, biomass and small hydro.

Supply is the electricity we can deliver to you, whereas demand corresponds to your electricity needs. Our Electricity Supply Plan 2020–2029 provides a detailed explanation of the balance between supply and demand. In addition, we offer a number of tools to help you use energy more wisely in cold weather, especially during peak periods.

Electricity sales by sector in Québec - 2020

Net electricity sales in Québec by sectors. Residential: 68,647 GWh, Commercial and small industrial: 45,146 GWh, Large industrial: 52,096 GWh, and Other: 5,557 GWh

Achieving green autonomy: Hydro-Québec’s off-grid systems

Several villages in remote regions are not connected to the main power grid and are supplied by off-grid systems. A portion of the electricity from these systems is generated using fossil fuels. Hydro-Québec operates off-grid systems in five regions: Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Nunavik, Basse-Côte-Nord, Schefferville and Haute Mauricie.

The process to partially or totally convert the off-grid systems to cleaner energy sources is currently under way. All systems will be converted by 2025.

What is the most economical and ecological way of managing electricity consumption? Energy efficiency.

Using electricity wisely means making informed choices. There are simple things we can do every day to collectively reduce our energy consumption. This way, we can avoid the extra costs associated with purchasing electricity or adding more equipment.

The company offers several energy efficiency initiatives adapted to its various customers (i.e., residential, business, low-income and in remote regions) to help them save money.

New annual energy savings – Energy effiency initiatives (GWh)
  2017 2018 2019 2020
Residential customers 200 212 214 225
Business customers 321 245 257 218
Off-grid systems 3 3 10 0
Energy savings 524 460 481 443
2020 highlights
  • We increased our energy conservation goals for 2029. We are currently developing new programs and business approaches to encourage greater customer participation. The energy savings attained through our programs will free up power for transportation and building electrification, in addition to deferring the need to invest in the transmission and distribution systems.

Innovating to serve our customers

The Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage has a dry room dedicated to lithium-ion battery assembly.
A researcher looks into the dry room at the Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage.

Whether it’s adapting to climate change, decarbonizing the economy, increasing energy efficiency or protecting biodiversity, our ability to innovate allows us to sustainably support Québec’s social and economic development.

From electrification to energy storage, electric mobility, decentralized energy resources, smart homes, connected technologies, smart grids and cutting-edge simulators, our teams research, develop and market state-of-the-art technologies and applications in partnership with some of the world’s leading companies.

Breakdown of IREQ innovation efforts relates to sustainability - 2020

This graph shows the breakdown of IREQ innovation efforts related to sustainability in 2020: Energy consumption: 4.0%, Asset sustainment and service continuity: 79.0%, Environment: 6.0%, Intégrating non-dispatchable: 11.0%.
2020 highlights
  • Hydro-Québec is among the top Canadian R&D spenders in the electricity industry. With a budget of $158.5 million, the company’s research institute, IREQ, develops state-of-the-art technology in multiple fields related to power systems and renewable energy.

Transport electrification

Vehicle charging at a 400‑V charging station.
Electric vehicle charging at one of the Electric Circuit’s 400-V stations.

Electric vehicle drivers have access to more and more charging stations in Québec. We are continuing to make our customers aware of the advantages of electric vehicles and our researchers are developing the materials for tomorrow’s batteries.

In personal transportation, we want to step up the rollout of the Electric Circuit, raise public awareness about the benefits of electric vehicles and continue to develop battery materials.

Since the transportation sector is the main source of GHG emissions in Québec, the adoption of electric vehicles, active transportation and public transit is an important way to reduce air pollution.

Hydro-Québec contributes financially to strategic projects and participates in the pilot projects of public transit authorities. For the transport of merchandise and to meet its own transportation needs, the company collaborates on pilot projects for charging vehicle fleets and works to electrify its own fleet.

2020 highlights

  • Strong growth in the Electric Circuit, the largest public charging network for electric vehicles in Québec and Eastern Ontario. The network comprises more than 3,000 charging stations, including 450 fast chargers, in 17 of Québec’s administrative regions.

Capitalizing on solar power

Solar power could soon replace energy generated by fossil fuels
Winter landscape at Robert-Bourassa generating station at sunset.

Solar power is becoming less and less expensive to generate and it could soon replace energy generated by natural gas, oil, diesel and coal. Solar power represents business opportunities for Hydro-Québec.

2020 highlights

  • In December, we completed the construction of our first photovoltaic solar generating stations, located in La Prairie and Varennes. With over 30,000 solar panels, their grid-connected installed capacity will be close to 10 MW. Commissioning has been scheduled for the first half of 2021. In addition to producing electricity from sunlight, the two facilities will deepen our knowledge of photovoltaic generation, help us assess the viability of centralized solar energy production in Québec and allow us to identify the technologies best suited to the province’s specific conditions.

Hydropower and the environment

The effects of climate change are significant, and we are working hard to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

In North America, our electricity exports enable us to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But that’s not all we do: our goal is also to decarbonize Québec’s economy while incorporating environmental management and biodiversity preservation into all our activities.

The many benefits of hydropower

Daniel-Johnson dam, a powerful symbol of Québec’s expertise in hydroelectricity
Aerial view of the arches at Daniel-Johnson dam with part of the reservoir in the background..

Québec has vast hydraulic resources in the form of some 500,000 lakes and 4,500 rivers. Our landscape bears witness to the immense hydroelectric potential we have been able to develop over time.

Hydropower, whose impacts are known and controlled, offers an ideal solution to the major challenges faced by North America in:

  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • ensuring a secure supply of electricity

The mercury issue

Reservoir impoundment temporarily increases fish mercury levels, but these return to normal after 10 to 35 years, depending on the fish species and the type of reservoir. This phenomenon is closely monitored and fish consumption recommendations are issued as needed.

Find out more about mercury in hydroelectric reservoirs

GHG emissions and reservoirs

Impoundment of hydroelectric reservoirs induces decomposition of a small fraction of the flooded biomass (forests and peatlands, for example) and an increase in the aquatic wildlife and vegetation in the reservoir. The result is higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after impoundment, mainly CO2 (carbon dioxide) and a small amount of CH4 (methane). However, these emissions are temporary and peak two to four years after the reservoir is filled.

Greenhouse gas emissions and reservoirs

Comparing power generation options and electricity mixes

According to a study by CIRAIG, the GHG emission rate of hydropower, calculated based on a life-cycle assessment (LCA), is very similar to that of nuclear or wind power, but is much lower than that of other power generation options.
The study shows that the GHG emission rate of hydropower is five times lower than that of PV solar power, 50 times lower than natural-gas-fired thermal, and 70 times lower than coal-fired thermal generation.

Comparing power generation options and electricity mixes report

Hydroelectric developments and fish

All new hydro projects entail environmental studies, mitigation and compensation measures, and several years of follow-up studies after their commissioning. The environmental and fish-related issues involved differ for each project.

Consult our studies and publications on hydroelectric developments and fish

For more information, follow these links:

Québec power: A solution in the fight against climate change

Some 99.6% of the electricity we deliver to you is clean, renewable power that contributes to preserving air quality and reducing the effects of climate change. However, some of our operations emit atmospheric contaminants and produce greenhouse gases, or GHGs, for which mitigation measures are implemented.

GHG emissions are one of the main causes of the deterioration in the quality of life of living species.

If we are to correct this situation, we must decarbonize! The objective of decarbonization it to replace hydrocarbons used to make or use products with an energy source that produces no GHG emissions.

Electricity as green energy

The power industry is responsible for 12% of all GHG emissions in Canada, but less than 1% in Québec. Québec’s outstanding record in this repect is largely due to that fact that hydroelectricity—which is clean, renewable energy—constitutes almost all the power generated by Hydro-Québec.

In addition, the company strives to not only reduce the GHG emissions produced by its operations, but also to preserve biodiversity and manage environmental impacts as part of its business processes.

Zero emissions: Hydro-Québec’s solution for the Northeastern U.S.

For the past two decades, Hydro-Québec has been selling environmentally friendly, competitively priced electricity to neighboring systems. Québec’s hydropower benefits our neighbors in two ways, in that it minimizes GHG emissions and is sold at very stable prices.

Emissions avoided by net electricity exports

Années 2017 2018 2019 2020
Emissions avoided (kt CO2 eq.) 8 362 7 902 6 949 6 611
Net exports (TWh) 34.4 36.1 33.7 31.3

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

The clear choice – adapting to climate change

Despite global efforts to reduce GHG emissions, the impacts of climate change will persist, and we must adapt to them.

Hydro-Québec is increasingly aware of the effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions on its operations, whether from violent winds, tornadoes or more frequent heavy precipitation.

For the past 18 years, Hydro-Québec has been collaborating with Ouranos, a research consortium established by the Québec government, Environment Canada and Hydro-Québec in 2001, to better understand climate change and its effects. Together, these organizations are working to find solutions that will enable us to adapt to these changes.

2020 highlights
  • We completed the first phase of our vulnerability assessment using a methodology tailored to the structure and diversity of our assets and operations. We also created an atlas of climate indicators that will compile temperature and precipitation data according to international standards, allowing us to project our facilities into a future climate.

Environmental management

We implement various measures to help maintain biodiversity.
Little bird on the snow with feathers puffed up against the cold.

Our large-scale infrastructure projects and current operations have impacts on the environment. We do our utmost to reduce or mitigate these negative effects by reducing our atmospheric pollutant emissions, preserving soil and water, protecting biodiversity and promoting ecoresponsible consumption.

The objective of environmental management is to take into account, assess and reduce the environmental impact of the company’s operations.

Hydro-Québec carefully monitors its projects during construction and carries out rigorous environmental follow-up of all its facilities in operation.

We have incorporated environmental and social criteria into our process for acquiring goods and services. This practice aims to reduce environmental impacts, increase social spinoffs and enhance the economic viability of our suppliers.

Recovery and reuse of insulating oil (litres)

Recovery and reuse of insulating oil: 2020: 98,7 of insulation oil was reused. 2019: 95,9% of insulation oil was reused. 2018: 96.2%, 2017: 97.5% of insulating oil was reused
Recovered oil suffices for all the company’s requirements. This oil is decontaminated and regenerated for reuse in equipment. Oil that cannot be regenerated is reclaimed as energy.

ISO 14001 standard

Since the late 1990s, ISO 14001−certified environemental management systems have governed all Hydro-Québec operations that could have an effect on the environment. Moreover, construction projects and developments in operation are subject to close environmental monitoring and follow-up.

Biodiversity

As part of its operations, Hydro-Québec works to preserve biodiversity and protect species at risk and various ecosystems. For example we always make sure that the areas we develop are comparable to the surrounding natural environment in terms of species diversity and biological productivity.

2020 highlights
  • To mitigate the impact of the Appalaches–Maine line, and especially its effects on plants and wildlife, we designed a new tower that reduces the width of the right-of-way by 10 m. We also paired the future line with an existing line for 66% of its route.

For more information, follow these link:

Corporate responsibility and social commitment

Powering communities

Chute à Ménard pedestrian bridge in Saint-Michel-des-Saints
Wooden pedestrian bridge over a waterfall.

We support Québec’s cultural, social and economic life with donations and sponsorships for programs and activities in specific areas. In this way, we fund concrete initiatives whose positive environmental and social impacts serve the interests of local communities throughout Québec.

Investing in the community enables Hydro-Québec to:

  • Strengthen our corporate citizenship
  • Maintain or improve our community relations
  • Promote our strategies, programs and services.

Community investments ($K) by category from 2017 to 2020
Category 2017 2018 2019 2020
Donations and Sponsorships, including Centraide 19 107 19 078 18 910 19 260
Educational institutions 3 274 3 170 6 825 7 453
Integrated Enhancement Program 4 231 3 350 1 076 5 529
Othera 857 958 864 1 053
Total 28 207 27 321 28 133 33 295

a. The Other category includes Youth Products, the art collection and presentations at universities and colleges.

Social acceptability and public participation

Transmission line in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, between Mont-Joli and Sainte-Angèle-de-Mérici, successfully incorporated into the landscape.
High-voltage power line with conventional towers crossing a hilly landscape with fields of wildflowers.

Every year, we study or carry out around 1,100 construction and refurbishment projects. The vast majority of these projects involve the maintenance of our facilities and have no impact on the environment.

Every project is unique and the measures taken to promote social acceptability may vary, depending on the host community’s expectations.

A project’s social acceptance does not necessarily mean there is no opposition, but rather that as broad a consensus as possible has been achieved. By securing public participation and working stakeholders from the beginning of its projects, Hydro-Québec encourages communities to be involved in project planning and in creating the conditions that will make the projects acceptable and mutually beneficial.

2020 highlights

  • Consultation on electricity supply options for the Îles-de-la-Madeleine
  • Having determined that the anticipated cost of the project to connect the Îles-de-la-Madeleine by underwater cables was higher than the estimate made in 2018, Hydro-Québec reviewed its comparative analysis of the different options for supplying electricity to the archipelago. In this context, we consulted various stakeholders in the fall of 2020 to document the social acceptability of the different options.

Relations with Indigenous communities

Indigenous Hydro-Québec employee working in the machine room at Robert-Bourassa underground generating station.

Québec’s 11 Aboriginal nations, in 55 commun-ities, each have different cultures and lifestyles. In carrying out its projects and operations, Hydro-Québec maintains strong relationships with the various Indigenous communities present, in keeping with their culture and their traditional use of the land. Since each community is unique, the company strives to adapt its practices and processes to local realities, with a view to developing mutually beneficial partnerships

Indigenous communities have started various businesses that offer products and services to Hydro-Québec. Present in all Québec regions, these businesses contribute to the province’s economic growth.

2020 highlights
  • The value of contracts awarded to Indigenous-owned businesses in 2020 was $140.9 million, or 4.75% of the total value of all contracts.

Land use

Land use and development in Québec requires an integrated multidisciplinary approach.

Hydro-Québec takes land-use planning into account in managing its operations and carrying out its projects. It continually reviews its practices and processes to ensure that its power grid operates in harmony with current and future land use.

From its generating stations, which are often located in remote regions, to its urban distribution system, Hydro-Québec designs its facilities in consideration of the distinctive characteristics and constraints of the land where they are built.

In operating our many facilities (reservoirs, dams, control structures, etc.), we take care to preserve the quality of the water bodies so the communities along their shores can also use them.

Our contribution to preserving our heritage

We endeavor to preserve and develop the value of Québec’s built, archaeological and technological heritage. We achieve this by not only ensuring that our facilities blend into the surrounding landscape, but also by offering guided tours of Hydro-Québec facilities in six of Québec’s regions.

Health and safety

Pruning trees in a residential area of Baie-Comeau, in the Côte-Nord region.
A Hydro-Québec employee in a cherry-picker perched up in the trees.

Everyone wants quality service at competitive rates. Our employees and suppliers also want to work in a safe, healthy work environment.

As we conduct our operations, the health and safety of our employees, customers and anyone likely to be near or in our facilities are of vital importance to us. Since electricity use can be hazardous, we inform the public of the precautions that should always be taken. We also study the potential effects of our operations on human health so that we can improve our understanding and take all necessary measures to mitigate risks and inconveniences.

Public and consumer health and safety

We monitor our facilities and manage our operations with a view to reducing risks and nuisances.

We maintain secure access to our facilities and inform the public about the hazards of electricity use and the risk of drowing near hydropower facilities.

Employee and contractor health and safety

Hydro-Québec has always maintained high occupational health and safety standards.

2020 highlights
  • In 2020, health became everyone’s number-one priority. Starting on March 12, our Corporate Emergency Plan Coordination Committee (CCPUC) began closely monitoring pandemic-related developments and adjusting the company’s health measures according to public health guidelines to protect the health and safety of our employees and suppliers.

Our customers come first

Hydro-Québec distributes electricity to about 4.3 million customers
Power distribution line running alongside a road.

Improving the customer experience

We have been implementing a number of ways to improve the quality of our residential and business customer service, including:

  • A mobile app and online services
  • Expanded call center hours
  • Chat sessions with advisors
  • Specialized programs for business customers

Call wait times and the number of complaints and claims are key indicators. The customer service representatives in our 14 call centers throughout Québec handle more than three million calls per year.

Average call wait times at customer relations centers from 2017 to 2020 (seconds)

Our customer relations centers receive an average of 10,000 calls per day. Naturally, the number of calls has an impact on the average call wait time, which also varies from one year to another based on the severity of the winter (heating) and summer (air conditioning), as well the number of moves and outages. Finally, many questions can now be resolved through self-service options, but the more complex ones that take longer to process are still generally dealt with over the phone. Hydro-Québec’s maximum target call wait time is 110 seconds.

Customer complaints and claims (number)
This table illustrates how the number of complaints fell from 6,211 in 2017 to 4,058 in 2020. During the same period, the number of claims fell from 3,297 to 2,517. Claims appeals to the Régie de l’énergie likewise increased, going from 85 in 2017 to 42 in 2020.

The number of complaints dropped 28% compared to 2019. This decrease reflects our sustained efforts to ensure we serve our customers well, communicate proactively and make improvements based on the comments we receive.

Reliable electricity service

Delivering reliable electricity service to Quebecers and our neighbors requires:

  • Meticulous supply management
  • The proper functioning of substations, transmission and distribution lines

Therefore, we carry out regular maintenance and repair work on our structures and facilities, along with work to extend or modify the transmission system. We also make sure that vegetation is kept at a height and density compatible with system operation.

Service reliability is measured by the system average interruption duration index (Saidi), which reflects the average service interruption time per customer. Some scheduled interruptions are required for system maintenance, while unscheduled outages are caused by bad weather, invasive vegetation or equipment failure.

System Average Interruption Duration Index (minutes of interruption per customer)
The system average interruption duration index (SAIDI) measures the average annual service interruption time per customer. This chart shows that the average number of minutes of interruption per customer went from 278 in 2017 to 256 in 2020.

A responsible supplier

A Trois-Rivières storage area housing materials for the 735-kV Chamouchouane–Bout-de-l’Île line project.
Asphalted storage area with trucks and wooden pallets loaded with material.

A number of our large-power customers have adopted policies or practices for meeting the highest standards in responsible procurement. In that vein, they want to make sure their suppliers, including Hydro-Québec, abide by responsible business practices and provide them with products and services that comply with their specifications.

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