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Energy in Quebec: Can we electrify the entire economy?

Montreal, May 13, 2020 – For several years, there has been talk of electrifying the entire Quebec economy. The Montreal Economic Institute is releasing a publication today that presents the province’s energy profile, quantifies its hydroelectric potential, and identifies natural gas as a realistic solution for meeting our energy needs.

Currently, fossil fuels account for the majority (56%) of Quebec’s energy consumption, while electricity represents 36%. “Quebecers sometimes seem to believe that electricity is king in Quebec, but the numbers clearly indicate the opposite,” points out Jean Michaud, engineer and co-author of the research paper.

In principle, Hydro-Québec’s production capacity is sufficient for the electrification of transportation in periods of low energy demand, but it would be unthinkable during peak periods. “Quebec is particular in that it uses electricity rather than natural gas for heating. The mathematical reality is that much too high a percentage of Hydro-Québec’s capacity is already in use during peak periods for people to be able to charge their cars at the same time,” adds Mr. Michaud.

According to the authors, the 5.4 million electric personal vehicles that would hypothetically be circulating on Quebec roads would require around 37,350 MW just to recharge each day, or almost as much as the province’s peak demand in winter.

“Alternatives like solar or geothermal power are often proposed. As things currently stand, however, these energy sources are not efficient, reliable, or affordable enough,” says Germain Belzile, Senior Fellow at the MEI and co-author of the publication.

“Quebec’s recoverable natural gas reserves would be able to meet our needs for at least the next 40 years, and we would only need a limited number of new gas pipelines. The current price of natural gas makes the development of this resource unattractive for companies, yet this remains an entirely realistic and desirable alternative for the future,” concludes Mr. Belzile.

The Research Paper entitled Energy in Quebec: What Role for Natural Gas in the Context of Electrification? was prepared by Jean Michaud, engineer, with the collaboration of Germain Belzile, Senior Fellow at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.

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Interview requests: Daniel Dufort, Senior Director of External Relations, Communications and Development, MEI. Tel.: 438-886-9919 / Email: ddufort@iedm.org

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