Energy transition and innovation
Managing electricity consumption in a northern climate
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
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.
- 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
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
- 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.
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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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
|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.
- 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.
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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)
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.
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.
- 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.
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Corporate responsibility and social commitment
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.
|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|
|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
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.
- 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
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.
- 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 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
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.
Employee and contractor health and safety
Hydro-Québec has always maintained high occupational health and safety standards.
- 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
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)
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)
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A responsible supplier
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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