In addition to hydroelectricity, which accounts for over 99% of Hydro-Québec’s output, there are other renewable energy options that are in development or already well established and that have good potential.

What is hydrokinetic power?

Hydrokinetic power is the electricity generated by harnessing the kinetic energy of tides and ocean or river currents using a turbine. Hydrokinetic turbines transform the water’s energy into mechanical energy, just like wind turbines transform the wind’s energy. That energy is then converted into electricity.

There are three main types of hydrokinetic turbines:

  • Vertical-axis hydrokinetic turbines
  • Horizontal-axis hydrokinetic turbines
  • Oscillating-foil hydrokinetic turbines
Model of a horizontal-axis hydrokinetic turbine

To learn more about hydrokinetic power, see the data sheet [PDF 752 Kb]

Current state of knowledge

The main countries developing this form of power are the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, China, Japan, South Korea, Canada and the U.S. The United Kingdom leads the way because it is able to harness substantial tide and wave energy in its waters. The European Marine Energy Centre, in Scotland, is very active in hydrokinetic R&D. In the United States, Alaska accounts for over 50% of the country’s theoretical potential, making it the ideal state for demonstration and commercialization projects.

Hydrokinetic potential

The United Kingdom is one of the countries with the greatest theoretical potential, which is why many demonstration projects are carried out there. Although the country has also been home to a number of commercial projects since 2016, the industry is still in its infancy. Other countries with significant potential for hydrokinetic energy, regardless of the type, are the following:

  • Canada, particularly in Baie d’Ungava (Ungava Bay), in Québec, and the Bay of Fundy, in Nova Scotia
  • the United States, mainly in Alaska
  • Argentina
  • Russia, in the Kislaya Guba fjord
  • France, in the Rance river region
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • India
  • South Korea, at Sihwa Lake

Output and costs

The cost per kilowatthour of electricity generation at a generating station operating at least 10 hydrokinetic turbines installed in a string is US$0.25 for ocean currents, US$0.41 for tidal currents and US$0.80 for river currents.

Advantages and disadvantages

  • In terms of output, more predictable than wind power
  • No retaining structure, and few or no civil engineering works required
  • Discreet or even invisible due to the turbine components’ near-total immersion
  • Winter operations possibly problematic. To optimize power output throughout the year, local variations in water levels have to be considered a complex challenge.


Since there are very few hydrokinetic turbines in operation at this time worldwide, information on sustainability issues is still incomplete. Here are the main potential impacts:

  • Modifications to currents, wake effect and noise masking
  • Modifications to sedimentary dynamics that may affect the estuary regime
  • Modifications to substrates and the transportation and deposit of sediments: variable, depending on the type of anchor and underwater cables
  • Habitat modification, including benthic organism habitat
  • Modification of vegetation and possible impact on aquatic fauna
  • Interference with the circulation and migration of certain aquatic species, particularly as a result of magnetic fields generated by electrical cables
  • Risk of animal injury or death in the event of contact with moving machinery
  • Noise pollution during construction and operation
  • Possible conflicts with shipping, fishing, recreational boating, etc.
  • Zero greenhouse gas and atmospheric contaminant emissions during operation
  • Small environmental impact over the facility’s life cycle

What is osmotic power?

Osmotic power is the energy derived from the difference in salinity between seawater and fresh water, which is harnessed using a turbine to generate electricity.

When fresh water is separated from seawater by a semipermeable membrane, the fresh water moves by osmosis through the membrane into the seawater, raising the pressure on the seawater side. This osmotic pressure, combined with the permeation flow rate, turns a hydraulic turbine, generating electricity.

To learn more about osmotic power, see the data sheet [PDF 1.2 Mb]

Statkraft’s prototype osmotic power plant in Norway. © Statkraft

Current state of knowledge

The technology behind osmotic power is not yet mature. It is currently in the prototyping and demonstration phase, focusing on small power plants.

Osmotic potential

In Canada, the mouths of large rivers hold considerable long-term potential for osmotic development.

In Québec, Hydro-Québec's research institute estimated the exploitable osmotic potential for the 30 large rivers emptying into salt water to be 1,860 MW in 2011. Fourteen of them (1,060 MW) empty into the Golfe du Saint-Laurent (Gulf of St. Lawrence) and its estuary. The challenge today is to generate osmotic power at a cost that is competitive with other energy sources.

Output and costs

It is currently estimated that once osmotic power can be commercialized, gross costs will be between 7¢ and 14¢/kWh. Net costs should be based on generating station efficiency estimates of 60% to 75%.

Advantages and disadvantages

  • Steady, predictable output.
  • Adaptable for small or large generating stations.
  • Scalable design (membranes can be added as required), making it possible to increase installed capacity.
  • Generating sites near load centers, reducing power transmission needs.
  • Good potential for power plant sites.
  • Technology similar and complementary to that of hydroelectric power, with osmotic power plants able to be built on already-harnessed rivers.
  • High risk of clogging and gradual degradation of semipermeable membranes, necessitating pressure-filtering pretreatment of fresh water and periodic membrane replacement (every 5 to 7 years).


At this time, little is known about the social and environmental impacts of osmotic generating station operations and maintenance. To some degree, they are similar to those of water purification plants that use membrane filtration, which are well documented:

  • Modification of habitat and vegetation, with potential repercussions on aquatic fauna. Among other things, changes in salinity and regular large-volume discharges of brackish water may affect the natural mix of river water and seawater.
  • Potential impact of cleaning products.
  • Production of wet waste (sludge and used membranes).
  • Impact on the host environment if a dike or basin has to be built to optimize a site’s potential.
  • Possible conflicts with shipping, fishing, etc.
  • Zero greenhouse gas and atmospheric contaminant emissions during operation.
  • Social acceptability difficult to achieve for power plants built on natural sites.
  • Potentially significant visual pollution.

What is photovoltaic solar power?

Photovoltaic solar power is energy from sunlight, collected and converted directly into electricity by photovoltaic solar panels, also called “modules.”

The sunlight is converted into electricity in photovoltaic solar cells, using the photovoltaic effect. In a photovoltaic system, the array of cells is arranged in panels that are connected in series, in parallel or by both methods.

There are a wide range of photovoltaic technologies, all at different stages of development. Many other techniques are used to generate solar power too.

To learn more about solar power, see the data sheet [PDF 1 Mb]

Photovoltaic panels

Are you interested in installing solar panels?

See our Web site to learn more about PV solar power before you invest.

Current state of knowledge

The photovoltaic industry has made considerable progress in the last decade. Its installed capacity shot from 1,790 MW to 584,000 MW between 2001 and 2019 (IRENA, 2020), an average annual increase of close to 40%. In early 2020, photovoltaic solar power accounted for about 5.75% of the world’s renewable electricity output and 23% of the installed capacity for all renewable energies (IEA, 2020). With the substantial growth in photovoltaic and wind power generation in recent years, generating capacity based on renewable energy sources now accounts for 28% of the global electricity mix.

In Québec, centralized photovoltaic solar power generation is in the experimental stage. Hydro-Québec is currently testing two solar generating stations in the Montérégie region with a total output of 9.5 MW (Hydro-Québec, undated). Although not very widespread, decentralized solar power generation does exist in Québec. Hydro-Québec is experimenting with a variety of photovoltaic solar power generating initiatives in both connected and off-grid systems.

An intermittent energy source

When considered over an entire year, solar energy output is quite predictable. But in terms of output at a given moment, it varies widely according to the season, time of day, weather conditions and cloud cover.

Because solar power is intermittent, customer-generators wishing to have electricity available at all times must use some form of energy storage or be connected to the Hydro‑Québec grid. In the latter case, they can take advantage of the utility’s net metering option.

Québec enjoys plenty of sunlight in summer and at noon, but little or none in the morning and evening during the winter, which is precisely when demand peaks on the Hydro-Québec grid. For this reason, large-scale centralized solar generation is not well-suited to the load profile in Québec, particularly in its northern regions.

Daily sunshine levels in Canada vary by region. Southern Québec, where most of the province’s population is concentrated, has more solar potential than Germany and about as much as Japan, which are among the world leaders in PV solar energy.

Photovoltaic panels

Are you interested in installing solar panels? See our Web site to learn more about PV solar power before you invest.

Photovoltaic potential

The availability of solar energy varies widely: the amount of sunshine depends on the time of day, weather and season, and it can be difficult to predict. Daily sunshine levels in Canada also vary by region. In Québec, solar energy is unavailable during peak demand periods (mornings and evenings) in the winter. As a result, photovoltaic systems have to be adapted to the wide swing in sunlight levels we experience between the summer and winter, especially in northern Québec.

This intermittent nature of solar energy poses a number of technical constraints for photovoltaic systems connected to Québec’s power grid, especially when the generating capacity is significant. Ultimately, these constraints are taken into account when deciding whether to use such systems, in light of the costs involved.

In southern Québec, where most of the population is concentrated, the average annual load factor for photovoltaic systems is around 16% or 17%. That is higher than in Germany and Japan, even though they are the leaders in the global photovoltaic solar power industry.

Output and costs

In 2020, energy conversion efficiency for photovoltaic modules used in electrical microgrids averaged 17%. The efficiency rate for multijunction cells can exceed 45% (NREL, 2020), but their production cost is still too high for large-scale use. Photovoltaic technologies have varying levels of sensitivity to temperature, and, as a result, their efficiency and output for a given level of sunshine (insolation) can vary by up to 30% between summer and winter. The main obstacle to the growth of photovoltaic solar power remains the upfront costs. Over the last decade, an entire industry has sprung up thanks to generous incentives, especially for the development of systems connected to power grids. In recent years, however, costs have come down considerably.

In Québec, in 2020, the cost of electricity supplied by small photovoltaic systems connected to the power grid is still higher than the cost of wind power or hydropower generated in the province. However, according to certain energy cost projections (Canadian Energy Regulator, 2020), Québec customer-generators would pay the same electricity rates as Hydro-Québec’s residential customers for the remainder of the decade.

Advantages and disadvantages

  • Reliable system with a long service life (about 30 years).
  • Little maintenance required.
  • Low operating costs.
  • High site potential (buildings, parking lot sun shades, open spaces, etc.).
  • No moving parts.
  • Scalable design, making it possible to increase installed capacity as required.
  • Panels available in different sizes and configurations.
  • Output that varies depending on the time of day, weather and season and can be difficult to predict.
  • Ground-mounted systems requiring considerable space.


The main issues for large ground-mounted photovoltaic systems are the following:

  • Visual impact: number of panels, size, color and light reflection.
  • No noise.
  • Obstacle to rain runoff and partial soil sealing (depending on system foundation).
  • Use of large quantities of water for cooling and cleaning, and production of wastewater.
  • Increased risks of soil degradation, including erosion.
  • Impact on natural habitats and disruption to wildlife.
  • Possible conflicts: farmland, access roads, woodlands and built environments (impact on property values).
  • Use of toxic materials during manufacturing.
  • Zero greenhouse gas and atmospheric contaminant emissions during operation.
  • Small environmental impact over the facility’s life cycle.
  • Social acceptance of solar power projects is reflected in the level of public participation.

What is biomass power?

Biomass power is the energy derived from animal or vegetable matter that can be converted into electricity by various methods.

Entreposage de biomasse forestière

To learn more about biomass power, see the data sheet [PDF 720 Kb]

Current state of knowledge

The main advantage of generating power from biomass is the fact that the carbon released during the process (whether to produce electricity, biofuels, renewable natural gas, etc.) is biogenic, because it is produced by photosynthesis from CO2 that is already in the air.

From 2010 to 2017, biomass accounted for roughly 7.5% of all energy consumed in Québec (Delisle, 2019, p. 55). In 2019, over 163 petajoules (PJ) of this type of renewable power was generated in the province (Whitmore and Pinaud, 2020, p. 7). Forest biomass is the most frequently used organic matter due to its ready availability. In 2016, nearly 3.11 million anhydrous metric tonnes (AMT) of biomass were used to produce electricity through cogeneration in Québec (Baril, 2017).

Biomass potential

Québec’s supply of forest, agrifood and urban biomass available for use in power generation is estimated at 10 million tonnes, representing gross thermal energy of 174 PJ (48 TWh). Slash (forestry waste consisting of tree trunks, crowns and branches) offers the greatest potential, at nearly 6.5 million anhydrous metric tonnes (MNRF, 2009, p. 9). Since some of the slash is already used to maintain soil fertility during harvesting, among other things, approximately 4.4 million tonnes can be reclaimed as a source of energy, corresponding to 84 PJ of thermal energy (23 TWh).

Output and costs

In a biomass-fueled cogeneration plant (which simultaneously produces electricity and thermal power in the form of steam), 30% to 35% of the energy in the solid biomass is converted into electricity. By recovering the heat released and using it for various purposes, total efficiency can reach 80%.The price of biomass power depends on many factors. However, its generating cost per unit of energy can be determined based on the delivered cost of biomass and its heating value.

Advantages and disadvantages

  • Relatively low and stable upfront costs for forest biomass
  • Continuous source of power, unlike wind and photovoltaic solar power
  • Lower energy density than fossil fuels
  • Large-scale operations expensive because biomass resources are widely dispersed
  • Need to build biomass-fueled cogeneration plants near the resource or power transmission lines
  • Complexity of using urban biomass as a result of waste diversity, which requires sorting operations, a variety of processing technologies, etc.


The main issues associated with generating electricity from forest biomass are the following:

  • Reclamation of industrial wood waste, which would otherwise be sent to landfill
  • Loss of biodiversity and soil depletion if insufficient slash is left on-site
  • Production of air contaminants during biomass combustion and transportation
  • Increased trucking of slash
  • Biomass storage impact: contaminant leaching, odor and visual impact
  • Production of end waste (e.g., wood ash) that can be difficult to reclaim due to its metal content

What is small wind power?

Small wind power is the kinetic energy of the wind converted into electricity by small wind turbines.

To learn more about small wind power, see the data sheet [PDF 1.3 Mb]

Current state of knowledge

Wind power continues to make strides all around the world. In 2019, global installed capacity climbed by 59 GW, the second-highest yearly increase on record. Total capacity reached 622 GW by year-end (IRENA, 2020).

The market is dominated by large wind, meaning wind farms that are connected to electric power grids and operated by specialized power companies. Current development efforts focus on building wind turbines with a capacity of more than 2 MW. These large turbines are designed for integration into electric power grids, a growing trend. Offshore wind turbines have capacities of 5 MW or more.

Small wind (<100 kW), on the other hand, is much less wide­spread and remains the domain of small power producers. Total installed small wind capacity in 2018 was 1,727 MW, a 38% increase over 2013. China is home to more than 33% of these facilities, while the United States and United Kingdom account for about 9% (Moreira Chagas et al., 2020). The average installed capacity of small wind turbines is increasing, but remains low. It stood at 0.85 kW in 2013.

Supported by government strategies, Québec’s large wind industry has grown substantially over the last 10 years. Small wind, on the other hand, is virtually non-existent in Québec.

Wind potential

Wind power continues to make strides all around the world. In 2019, global installed capacity climbed by 59 GW, the second-highest yearly increase on record. Total capacity reached 622 GW by year-end (IRENA, 2020).

The market is dominated by large wind, meaning wind farms that are connected to electric power grids and operated by spe­cialized power companies. Current development efforts focus on building wind turbines with a capacity of more than 2 MW. These large turbines are designed for integration into electric power grids, a growing trend. Offshore wind turbines have capacities of 5 MW or more.

Small wind (<100 kW), on the other hand, is much less widespread and remains the domain of small power producers. Total installed small wind capacity in 2018 was 1,727 MW, a 38% increase over 2013. China is home to more than 33% of these facilities, while the United States and United Kingdom account for about 9% (Moreira Chagas et al., 2020). The average installed capacity of small wind turbines is increasing, but remains low. It stood at 0.85 kW in 2013.

Supported by government strategies, Québec’s large wind industry has grown substantially over the last 10 years. Small wind, on the other hand, is virtually non-existent in Québec.

Output and costs

Theoretically, wind turbines can convert up to 59% of the wind’s kinetic energy into electricity. In practice, however, the average is lower. In this respect, small wind fares worse than large wind, as its development is never the object of major technological innovations or investments. Annual utilization factors average between 15 and 25%. The cost of small wind generation is difficult to determine because equipment prices vary widely. In addition, it depends on a key variable: the quality of the winds at the generating site. Furthermore, small wind turbines are not always certified because of the limited financial capacity of many manufacturers. Without a basis for comparison, it is therefore impossible at the time of purchase to make an informed technological choice and to obtain the desired performance guarantees. As things now stand, it is very difficult to determine the cost (¢/kWh) of the electricity produced by small wind, and existing market conditions do not provide any indication that small grid-connected wind facilities could become an economically viable option in Québec in the short term. Off grid, however, small wind is a good option for a wide variety of uses.

Advantages and disadvantages

  • Often cost effective in remote areas, far from the power grid
  • In remote areas, it can be used in tandem with other energy options, such as diesel generators
  • Energy independence: self-generation for residential, institutional or agricultural purposes or for small communities or small businesses
  • Output is variable and often low or nil, especially with a single wind turbine
  • Output is difficult to predict with limited means


  • No interference with television and radar signals
  • Low electromagnetic wave emissions
  • Zero emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution during operation
  • Small environmental footprint over facility life cycle
  • Significant visual impact at some sites: successful integration with the environment is important
  • Noise pollution varies depending on the type of equipment and host environment
  • Bird and bat fatalities

What is geothermal energy?

It is energy in the heat recovered from water that occurs naturally in, or has been injected into, a geothermal reservoir thousands of metres below the Earth’s surface.

Deep geothermal energy should not be confused with surface geothermal energy:

  • Deep geothermal energy involves recovering heat from great depths, down to around 5,000 m, for direct heating purposes, for electric power generation using a turbine, or for both through cogeneration. The heat is extracted from the rock layers deep in the Earth’s crust using a geothermal system.
  • Surface geothermal energy involves harnessing heat from the shallow layers of the Earth’s surface, down to about 400 m, for heating and cooling buildings. A heat pump is needed to convey the heat and render it compatible with the building’s heating circuit.

To learn more about deep geothermal energy, see the data sheet [PDF 879 Kb]

Geotermal systems

Currently, it is possible to utilize the heat stored in subsurface rock formations by drilling down 1,000 to 3,000 m or even 5,000 m and using one of the following geothermal systems:

  • A hydrothermal geothermal system, or traditional hydrothermal system, makes use of the heat of the hot water or steam found naturally in permeable rock formations, meaning those with pores (e.g., limestone) or fissures (e.g., granite) through which water can pass. It is the preferred system when a geothermal reservoir presents all the desired characteristics (high temperature, fluid and permeability).
  • An enhanced geothermal system (EGS), or fractured rock system, involves creating a geothermal reservoir by hydraulic fracturing. This process is used to cause fissures to form in the rock by injecting water at high pressure. Once the geothermal reservoir has been created, water is sent down an injection well, allowed to circulate through the fissures to heat up and then recovered through a production well. It can then be used as a heat source, to drive a turbine, for example. This is the solution that has been found for rock formations that have low to no permeability.

Current state of knowledge

While often less well known than other renewable energy options such as wind and solar, deep geothermal energy is being developed worldwide. In 2020, the installed capacity for this type of energy worldwide was 30 GW for heat production (Lund and Toth, 2020) and 16 GW for electric power production (Huttrer, 2020).

The leading producer of electricity from deep geothermal energy is the United States. Its installed capacity for this type of energy was 3.7 GW in 2020 and could reach 4.3 GW by 2025. In 2020, hydrothermal geothermal systems in the United States generated 18.4 TWh of power. Some 50 other countries use deep geothermal energy to produce electricity, including Indonesia, the Philippines, New Zealand, Iceland, Mexico and Turkey. Worldwide, 95.1 TWh of power was generated by geothermal systems in 2020, the vast majority being hydrothermal systems.

In Canada, the geothermal energy potential of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin is of particular interest.

Deep geotermal energy potential

According to the World Energy Council (2013), the global potential for electric power from hydrothermal systems could be as great as 140 GW. For enhanced systems, the theoretical potential is huge although the exploitable potential is much less. In the United States, for instance, the electric power potential of as-yet undiscovered hydrothermal reservoirs is estimated at 30 GW. For enhanced systems, the theoretical electric power potential of rocks hotter than 150°C at a depth of 3 to 7 km is immense, estimated at more than 5,000 GW, more than the country’s current total installed capacity. Most of this potential is in the Western United States, where geothermal resources are closer to surface. Due to economic, technical and socio-environmental constraints, however, only a small portion of this potential would be exploitable in practice.

Québec’s potential for deep geothermal energy was assessed in 2016 (Richard et al., 2017). The province’s subsurface layers do not contain hydrothermal reservoirs hot enough for the production of heat or electricity. In the St. Lawrence Lowlands, geothermal power plants could be powered by enhanced geothermal reservoirs. In order to reach 150 °C rocks, however, it would be necessary to dig down more than 5 km, and even 8 km in some places. Moreover, according to the latest estimates based on 120°C rock formations lying 3 km to 10 km below surface, the theoretical potential of the St. Lawrence Lowlands would be only 45 GW (Bedard et al., 2020). Under such conditions and at such temperatures, the installed capacity of a power plant fed by geothermal reservoirs 6 km below surface would be 2 MW at best (Richard, 2016).

Energy effiency and costs

As for any system that converts heat to electricity, energy efficiency for a geothermal system depends primarily on the temperature of the heat source, in this case the geothermal fluid. When the geothermal fluid is between 150°C and 200°C at surface, energy efficiency is currently 10% to 15%. In the medium and long term, however, it may be possible to increase energy efficiency to 25% or better through the use of new geothermal fluids and higher-performance power cycles.

In 2019, the average capital cost of a geothermal power plant generating electricity using a hydrothermal system was about US $4,000/kW, and the cost of electricity was around US $0.07/kWh (IRENA, 2020). The lower the temperature of the geothermal fluid, the higher the cost of electricity.

Advantages and disadvantages

  • Power plants can be installed anywhere, as long as you drill far enough down to reach the temperature range needed for heat and power generation
  • Power generation is continuous and predictable
  • No energy storage system is needed
  • The energy source does not require special processing along the lines of oil refining or uranium enrichment
  • When the power plant sits directly above the heat source, there is no need to convert or transport fuel, thus eliminating hazards such as oil spills
  • EGS power plants would not be cost-effective in many regions
  • This renewable energy option is based on the development of a deep geothermal system, which comes with a high capital cost and a high risk of non‑performance


  • The surface installations have a small footprint
  • The vast majority of geothermal power plants have low greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions
  • Geothermal plants have a small environmental footprint throughout their life cycle
  • Groundwater and surface water contamination can be avoided by proper wastewater management during drilling and hydraulic fracturing
  • The associated use of large volumes of water can be an issue, particularly in regions where water is scarce
  • The impact of microseismic events raises concerns
  • EGS operation carries a risk of increased seismicity
  • There may be health and environmental impacts, depending on the drilling technique used for hydraulic fracturing
  • If radioactive minerals occur naturally in the EGS reservoir, mitigation measures are needed to prevent them from ending up in the geothermal fluid and settling in surface plant equipment
  • There is an impact on the landscape, as pipelines, cooling towers, storage basins, buildings and transmission lines are imposing infrastructure visible from a distance

What is hydrogen?

Hydrogen (H) is the most common element in the universe. It is the main material in stars and gaseous planets. However, hydrogen is rarely found in pure form on Earth. It is most often combined with other atoms, such as oxygen, in the form of water (H2O), or carbon, in the form of hydrocarbons (CxHy). Hydrogen exists in the following two states:

  • Gaseous: Two hydrogen atoms are bonded together in a form referred to as “dihydrogen” (H2).
  • Liquid: Hydrogen becomes a liquid at −252.87°C.

To obtain hydrogen, it therefore has to be extracted from the molecules in which it is found. There are several methods for extracting hydrogen, including water electrolysis and steam reforming of natural gas. Producing hydrogen through water electrolysis is attractive from an environmental perspective because it does not release any carbon dioxide (CO2) and can be done locally.

Hydrogen is not a form of energy. Rather, it is an energy vector, meaning that it can carry energy obtained from a primary source for later use. Hydrogen is one of the solutions to energy storage limitations and the intermittent nature of renewable energy generation.

To date, hydrogen has been used primarily in the chemical and refining industries, but it has other potential applications in areas such as energy storage and transportation fuel.

To learn more about hydrogen’s energy, see the data sheet [PDF 1.3 Mb]

Current state of knowledge

Steam reforming of natural gas is a common method of producing hydrogen. When the atoms in methane (CH4) are exposed to steam and heat, the atoms separate and rearrange themselves in the form of dihydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Hydrogen’s potential

Today, hydrogen is almost exclusively used in industrial applications, in chemistry and refining. In the future, it could play an important role in the transportation, natural gas, and heat and power generation industries.

Energy effiency and costs

Today, 95% of hydrogen is produced from hydrocarbons (oil, coal and natural gas), the lowest-cost method. However, this process emits CO2, a greenhouse gas. Industrial players are therefore increasingly looking into the possibility of producing hydrogen via electrolysis, using low-carbon energies. However, there is still work to be done in bringing down the associated production costs, which are currently considerably higher than for steam reforming. To achieve that goal, costs across the entire production line have to be significantly reduced, including the price of electrolyzers and fuel cell vehicles.

Advantages and disadvantages

  • Non-polluting production if it uses renewable electricity (every other hydrogen production method is polluting)
  • No pollutants released by hydrogen combustion, just water
  • Ability to produce carbon-neutral fuels (gasoline, fuel oil, kerosene, etc.) by combining hydrogen and carbon chains, such as biomass
  • Access to competitively priced low-carbon electricity to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen through electrolysis
  • Essential role in decarbonizing transportation
  • Hydrogen still more expensive to produce via electrolysis than via natural gas reforming
  • Additional costs for certain conversion processes (methanation, Fischer Tropsch), which require CO2
  • CO2 capture technologies to be developed
  • Significant investments required for transportation and distribution infrastructure


  • No greenhouse gas is emitted during hydrogen use, but some gas may be emitted during its production, depending on the techniques and energy sources used.
  • Hydrogen production, storage and distribution infrastructure are nearly non-existent in Québec. This infrastructure can have a considerable impact on the environment if virgin sites are used. Converting existing sites is therefore recommended.
  • Platinum, which is used to make fuel cells for hydrogen-powered vehicles, is a rare metal but can be recycled.