The wind farms "were forced on Hydro-Québec" by the provincial government, which wanted to promote regional development and market sustainable development rather than meet energy needs, Pineau said.
Quebec will have a bumper crop of surplus electricity over the next decade, according to a revised supply forecast by Hydro-Québec.
In a report filed with Quebec’s energy board, the utility said that it anticipates accumulating about 20 terawatt hours (TWh) of surplus electricity in its domestic market by 2020.
There has been a “significant decline” in the energy needs of most of the utility’s industrial clients since the utility filed its 2011-2020 forecast with the energy board in 2010, utility spokesperson Patrice Lavoie said Friday.
A terawatt is a unit of power equal to one trillion watts.
To put the surplus gap in perspective, Hydro-Québec now estimates that its industrial clients will require 60 TWh of energy in 2015.
In its 2011-2020 planning document, it had forecast 64.5 TWh would be consumed by industry.
The surplus doesn’t surprise Pierre-Olivier Pineau, an energy specialist at the HEC Montreal business school.
“If there is an energy shortage everyone is really upset,” he noted.
“What could be criticized is the very aggressive development of wind power, small hydro and large hydro – all at the same time.”
Hydro-Québec’s domestic supply forecast is only part of Quebec’s energy picture, a complex tableau that is often obscure and further complicated by the fact that Hydro-Québec’s production and distribution divisions are under one roof.
To calculate domestic supply, Hydro-Québec Distribution factors in electricity that will come online this decade via wind farms but not electricity that will come from new dam complexes such as Eastmain-1-A or the highly controversial Romaine Complex which is to add 8 TWh to the grid.
The wind farms “were forced on Hydro-Québec” by the provincial government, which wanted to promote regional development and market sustainable development rather than meet energy needs, Pineau said.
Energy from new dam complexes will be valuable in the long term but in this economic downturn and with energy markets awash with low-cost natural gas, Hydro-Québec faces some difficult years, he said.
Included in the domestic supply update by Hydro-Québec are recently-announced energy deals with two of Quebec’s aluminum producers, Lavoie said.
Earlier this month, the provincial government announced that Aluminerie Alouette, which is planning a $2 billion expansion, will be provided a 500-megawatt block of low-cost power. And Alcoa Inc. was promised a block of 325 MW.
And as a consequence of the anticipated energy surplus, Hydro-Québec will extend the time that the Trans-Canada Energy natural-gas powered facility at Bécancour will be mothballed.
Instead of coming online in 2015, it will be used during peak winter periods beginning in 2016, the report filed with the Régie de l’énergie said.
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