Hydro-Québec isn’t ignoring the alternative energy profiles of countries such as Germany, it just doesn’t much envy them, the utility’s CEO said on Thursday.
Thierry Vandal used his speech to a Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters luncheon to rebut recent criticism directed at the world’s largest hydroelectric producer.
“There is the myth of other countries such as Germany,” Vandal said.
And much is made of Germany’s energy profile.
“It’s impressive when you hear about it for the first time, but one also has to tell consumers how much it costs.”
Solar photovoltaic energy costs 59 cents per kilowatthour in Germany and is heavily subsidized. It is a good form of energy and costs will surely fall over time, Vandal said.
“But it is certainly too expensive to present it as an alternative to hydroelectric development” in the context of Quebec’s rate structure, he added.
In Ontario, the cost of solar photovoltaic ranges between 44 and 80 cents per kWh.
Critics of Hydro-Québec’s controversial $6.5-billion Romaine River dam complex suggest that wind energy and other alternatives should trump the further damming of virgin rivers, the audience heard. (Romaine energy will cost between 6.5 and nine cents per kWh to produce, according to the utility.)
Quebec is promoting, through subsidies, some wind development in the province, Vandal said. But the notion of creating vast wind farms in Quebec’s north doesn’t include the cost of transporting energy south.
Existing transmission lines, built decades ago, couldn’t handle that additional load, the audience was told.
Vandal questioned the economic sense of building new north-south transmission lines for an intermittent source that only produces energy about 35 per cent of the year.
Quebec’s Plan Nord provides for the development of 300 megawatts of wind energy. Those wind turbines will be off-grid, Vandal said, and provide energy to northern communities, and operations such as mines, that now rely on diesel cogeneration units that cost about 50 cents per kWh.
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