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.

Net electricity sales outside Québec - 2019

Proportion of sales outside Québec in 2018, New England: 47 %, New-York: 24% , Ontario: 19 %, New Brunswick: 7 %, Other: 3,0 % and Total: 36,1 TWh

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.

In 2019, these off-grid systems generated 451 GWh of power to serve close to 20,000 customers. They include 23 thermal power plants (132 MW) as well as two hydraulic generating stations, Lac-Robertson (21.6 MW) and Menihek (17 MW). Menihek belongs to a third party.

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.

2019 highlights
New annual energy savings – Energy effiency initiatives (GWh)
  2016 2017 2018 2019
Residential customers 202 200 207 211
Business customers 330 321 245 257
Off-grid systems 2 3 3 10
Energy savings 534 524 455 478

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.

Since our customers are central to our approach, we need to understand what motivates them to adopt emerging technologies. Our customers’ needs and our commitment to the energy transition are what drive our research.

We are actively involved in transportation electrification and in researching alternative fuels like hydrogen. We also develop renewable energies and innovative technologies that integrate storage, self-generation and home automation management systems to better meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers.

The energy transition relies in good part on technologial innovation in the following areas:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Smart grid management
  • The optimization of energy use

Breakdown of IREQ innovation efforts relates to sustainability

This graph shows the breakdown of IREQ innovation efforts related to sustainability: Environment: 6.0%, Asset sustainment and service continuity: 76.0%, Energy use – customers and equipment: 11.0%,Technology and integration of intermittent renewables: 7.0%.

2019 highlights

Hydro-Québec is among the top Canadian R&D spenders in the electricity industry. With a budget of $102.5 million, the company’s research institute, IREQ, develops state-of-the-art technology in multiple fields related to power systems and renewable energy.

Moving towards cleaner transportation

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

Transportation electrification is happening: 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.

Not only does Québec have an abundance of clean, affordable energy, but it also offers motorization and energy storage solutions. Our energy and our expertise are key assets in efficient electric transportation.

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.

2019 highlights

  • Strong growth in the Electric Circuit, the largest public charging network for electric vehicles in Québec and Eastern Ontario. The network comprises 2,389 charging stations, including 278 fast chargers, in 17 of Québec’s administrative regions. Eastern Ontario is served by the Electric Circuit with a total of 20 charging stations, including 12 fast chargers.
  • Adoption of an electrification plan for Hydro-Québec’s vehicle fleet and increase in the number of hybrid or plug-in electric vehicles from 294 in 2018 to 399 in 2019.

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. In fact, our current development strategies include the construction of solar generating stations.

The energy transition is also an opportunity to:

  • Maximize export revenue
  • Pursue acquisitions outside Québec
  • Boost power grid flexibility

Changing Cost of Photovoltaic Solar Power Systems – U.S. Residential Market (2010–2018)

This chart shows the decrease in the cost of various components and in the installation of solar panels. In 2010, a solar panel cost US$7.24 per Watt, whereas in 2018, a solar panel cost US$2.80 per Watt.

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

A project to connect the Îles de la Madeleine to the main grid is in the draft-design phase.
Îles-de-la-Madeleine thermal generating station with its twin oil tanks and a landscaped area in the foreground.

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.

With abundant, affordable, zero-carbon electricity at their disposal, Québec companies have a competitive edge over those operating within fossil-fuel-dependent economies. Many organizations throughout the world are joining the fight against climate change by opting to use clean electricity to meet their energy needs.

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

This graph shows exports and emissions avoided from 2015 to 2018 (t éq. CO2). 2015: 7,374; 2016: 7,954; 2017 : 8362; 2018: 7 902.

The clear choice – adapting to climate change

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 17 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.

2019 highlights

Creation of working groups bringing together all the business units that will focus on Hydro-Québec’s climate change adaptation response.

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: 2018: 96.2% of insulation oil was reused, 2017: 97.5% of insulating oil was reused, 2016: 87.9% of insulating oil was reused, 2015: 93.3% 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

The company recently implemented a new environmental management system (EMS) in compliance with the ISO 14001:2015 standard. The process involved merging seven EMSs into one.

For more information on environmental management at Hydro-Québec, consult our latest sustainability report.

2019 highlights

2,430 Hydro-Québec employees participated in at least one environmental training activity (2,267 people in 2018).

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.

2019 highlights

Following the dismantling of a transmission line in the municipality of New Richmond, an osprey nest found on one of the H-frames was moved to the Bioparc de Bonaventure, which now uses the nest to talk about osprey, its habits and its nest-building technique.

For more information, follow these links:

Corporate responsibility and social commitment

The energy sector is changing and electricity generation worldwide is increasingly green

Our hydropower benefits our customers in two ways: it is clean and renewable, and is sold at very stable prices. We are committed to this energy transition. We develop innovative technologies that allow us to provide our customers with new products and services and we support the development of other renewable energy sources.

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 2016 to 2019
Category 2016 2017 2018 2019
Donations and Sponsorships, including Centraide 17 526 19 107 19 078 18 910
Educational institutions 5 881 3 274 3 170 6 825
Integrated Enhancement Program 3 001 4 213 3 350 1 076
Fondation Hydro-Québec pour l’environnement 971 738 765 458
Othera 716 857 958 864
Total 28 095 28 207 27 321 28 133

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.

2019 highlights

  • Public information session was held in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge to explain the ongoing improvements at Chute-Bell dam and to answer residents’ questions. In the spring, the Rivière Rouge reached a record flow rate that resulted in the preventive evacuation of residents located near the dam.
  • A coordination committee was established and weekly meetings were held regarding the reconstruction of 120-kV lines between Vignan, Templeton and Interconnexion-Maclaren substations on the territory of the city of Gatineau. Thanks to the committee, the organizations concerned (the city, the transit company, firefighters, police officers, ambulances, the hospital, etc.) were informed of upcoming activities to ensure the work was carried out optimally.

Relations with Indigenous communities

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

Indigenous communities are unique and we believe it is important that their cultures and traditional land-use activities be respected. With this in mind, we adapt our practices and processes to their reality and strive to foster mutually beneficial partnerships with them.

Found throughout Québec, Indigenous companies supply Hydro-Québec with a number of products and services and are often associated with local procurement. In 2018, contracts worth $97 million (3% of all contracts) were awarded to Indigenous companies.

Percentage of contracts awarded to Indigenous companies in 2018 by goods and services category
Goods and services category Percentage (%)
Air services 33.81
Building operation and maintenance 31.23
Building construction 14.34
Road construction 5.98
Vegetation control 3.79
Power generation infrastructure 2.88
Environmental services 2.69
Othera 5.29
Total 100.00

a. The Other category encompasses undetermined products and services, telecommunications network construction, power line maintenance, petroleum products, computer hardware, telecommunications and related services, transportation infrastructure, corporate services, transmission services and logistics, and signage.

Watch our tribute to the Innu workers at the Romaine jobsite (in French)

2019 highlights
  • 114 employees participated in the training program on Hydro-Québec and Indigenous people.
  • [Under the Apatisiiwin Agreement, 99 Cree employees (74 men and 25 women) are still employed by the company as power system electricians, mechanics, and telecommunications and automatic controls operators and technicians.

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.

2019 highlights
  • We adopted temporary measures, including a road escort service for crossing the Highway 138 bridge to ensure the safety of snowmobilers. Hydro-Québec also committed to building permanent footbridges on the Romaine and Aisley rivers, which no longer freeze due to the combined effects of the operation of the Romaine complex and adverse weather conditions. (Côte-Nord)
  • We dismantled, at the community’s request, a 1.4-km section of a transmission line between Donnacona and Cap-Santé as well as five towers that had been out of order since the Abitibi Bowater plant was closed. We restored the land where the towers and cables were located. (Capitale-Nationale)

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. However, analyses conducted in the wake of unfortunate incidents have revealed that there is room for improvement in certain areas. Therefore, we have initiated a review of our processes which, once completed, will enable us to lay the foundations for a major culture shift in this regard.

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

Since 2015, 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 2016 to 2019
  2016 2017 2018 2019
Average call wait times (seconds) 99 84 87 104

Our customer relations centers receive an average of 12,000 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 9,727 in 2015 to 6,771 in 2018. During the same period, the number of claims fell from 3,960 to 4,031. Claims appeals to the Régie de l’énergie likewise increased, going from 85 in 2017 to 99 in 2018.

The number of complaints dropped 19% compared to 2018. This decrease reflects our sustained efforts to ensure we serve our customers well, communicate proactively and make improvements based on the comments we receive.

To learn more about Your Customer Space, watch this short video (in French).

2019 highlights
  • The Régie de l’énergie approved a new complaint examination procedure whereby the maximum period for processing a customer complaint was reduced from 60 to 30 days. To improve the visibility and accessibility of the change, it was shared via an insert attached to the Conditions of Service.

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 213 in 2015 to 437 in 2018.

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.

For more information, follow this link: